Is It Time for Hospice?

Hospice care can be a lifeline to patients at this time, allowing them to live out the remainder of their time as comfortably as possible. While treatment for the illness may no longer be possible, hospice can offer support to assist with pain and other symptoms, ensuring that the patient’s quality of life is as high as possible.

Many patients and caregivers wish they had started hospice sooner. Because the focus becomes on maximizing comfort and minimizing pain, hospice can be a significant improvement in the patient’s overall quality of life. Talk to your health care provider early about your options and your wishes for end-of-life care.

Reading book to cancer survivor Siena Hospice

Signs It May Be Time for Hospice

Beyond the diagnosis of a life-limiting illness, there are signs that it might be time for hospice care:

  • Rapid decline in health despite medical treatment
  • Frequent visits to the emergency room
  • Frequent hospitalizations
  • Frequent infections
  • Loss of appetite
  • Respiratory issues
  • Increased sleeping
  • Confusion or declining mental function
  • Problems communicating

This is not an exhaustive list, and each patient’s situation – including their personal wishes – needs to be examined to find the best alternatives.

According to The National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization, these were the most common diagnoses for Medicare hospice patients in 2018:

  • Cancer (29.6%)
  • Circulatory/heart disease (17.4%)
  • Dementia (15.6%)

Other  common illnesses include stroke, liver disease, kidney failure, HIV/AIDS, and ALS.

Because there is no precise way to calculate the remaining time for a patient, phsycians can refer patients who have terminal disease if they believe that there is less than six months left. However, Medicare approval for hospice can be extended beyond six months if the situation warrants.

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