Hospice Means Staying in Control

For some seniors and their families, the topic of hospice is a difficult discussion. It seems to hold poor or negative connotations that people tend to avoid. They believe it’s ‘giving up’ or that there is ‘no hope’ and other similar refrains they may have heard or thought.

This is an inaccurate perception. So let’s set the record straight.

The truth is that hospice represents a positive approach, especially when a referral to hospice is made early. When a person is diagnosed with a life-limiting illness, the sooner hospice is introduced the sooner the patient and family will experience its many benefits.

Hospice means staying in control of your health care options — you decide the services you need and how often with support from the physician and the hospice team. Services are available wherever you call home — a personal residence, independent or assisted living, skilled nursing facility or other.

Among the many benefits of hospice care:

  • Fully coordinated medical care and services. With emphasis on pain and symptom management, the hospice team and the patient’s physician work to assure that the patient is comfortable and well-care for, with hospice nurses available at all times.
  • The hospice team teaches the family and caregivers all they need to know so that they are confident in the care they provide to the patient; hospice aides help with daily living activities.
  • Emotional and spiritual support is provided to patient and family throughout the course of the illness.
  • Help with practical concerns is available through trained volunteers.
  • The financial burden for services, medications, equipment and supplies is relieved through the election of the Medicare hospice benefit which covers 100% of the cost of care.
  • Survivors are provided grief and loss support through the hospice bereavement service for up to a year.

Studies published in medical journals have shown that earlier referrals to hospice lead to better management of symptoms — this resulted in stabilization of their condition and prolonged survival. In addition, patients reported a higher quality of life on hospice care. These studies concluded that patients receiving hospice care lived an average of two months longer than those who were not on hospice care. And each month there are many whose conditions stabilize to the point where hospice is no longer required.

So why do some patients on hospice often live longer?

When pain and symptoms are well-managed by the hospice team, medications and treatment plans are more effective. With support and education, patients are less likely to feel like they are ‘giving up’ or placing a burden on their loved ones. By being more in control and involved in their care, a patient’s overall outlook improves and they are able to withstand and fight off the effects of their illness. Earlier care means that they are less likely to be re-hospitalized or making trips to the emergency room and the overall emotional, spiritual and practical support for the patient and family results in less stress and fatigue.

So rather than believing that hospice is ‘giving up’, people should consider it as an ‘uplifting gift’ to themselves and their loved ones.

There is always hope with hospice … HOsPicE — it’s even in the word!

This message is brought to you by the dedicated team members of Brookdale Hospice.