How many times recently have we seen in the news that a famous celebrity has just gone on hospice care? And then, just a day or two later, we hear news of that person’s death. The message sent by these news reports is that hospice care is only for the last few days of a person’s life. That is the wrong message.
Caregivers who are looking after a dying spouse or parent frequently wait until the very end to call hospice. Of course, hospice care agencies are quick to respond and offer the needed attention to the patient but, in most cases, they could have been helping the patient for weeks and months before.
A patient may be admitted to hospice care when there is a diagnosis that life expectancy is six months or less. As soon as the doctor makes that determination, the call should be made to the hospice of the patient’s or family’s choice. Taking care of this right after the diagnosis or referral allows hospice personnel to become familiar with, and knowledgeable about, the patient and the patient’s family. It also allows the patient and the patient’s family to feel more comfortable with hospice staff members.
The specific services that the patient receives from hospice will change through the course of his or her time with that hospice. A patient may need less from hospice shortly after diagnosis than he or she will need in the final days.
Some families feel that hospice care is not needed in the early days of the dying process. Reasons include a hesitancy to acknowledge that a loved one is actually going to die. Family members may feel that the care they are giving is enough. Some just are not aware of all the services hospice offers. The list of services offered by hospices in 2012 is extensive.
If you know someone who has revealed that a loved one has a terminal condition, urge this person to contact a hospice agency and seek information. Getting the patient admitted into hospice care now will make things easier when those final moments arrive—for the family, for the hospice staff and for the patient.