If you are with your spouse or your parent when the doctor says to him or her, “I don’t think we can do anything else. You will want to call hospice,” the message can be jarring.
Even if you have had doubts about the effectiveness of treatments—even if you have seen the illness progress just like it did with other family members—even if the discomfort from chemo has been overwhelming—receiving these actual words from the doctor is likely to cause sadness and, in some cases, can even lead to depression.
This is a time when family members and the patient need to evaluate the whole situation. The number one priority should be patient comfort, both physical and mental. Letting the patient know that you will be by his or her side, giving your time and attention through the entire process, is vital.
The patient may want to talk at length or she or he may want to reflect quietly. The patient may even want a bit of solitude to think and, perhaps, to pray.
You may wish to talk to one or more hospice agencies. Ask about the services they afford. Ask about their nurses and home health aides. Ask about their social workers and chaplains. In making a decision to seek admission to a particular hospice, consider the entire range of services a hospice offers.
If a number of family members are to be included in the hospice decision, make sure that all voices are heard—especially that of the patient. If the family members concerned are children of the patient, avoid power struggles. In some cases, one particular family member may be much better equipped to handle important details. Some siblings may wish to share their thoughts, but may not want to shoulder much of the responsibilities. That’s just the way it is sometimes. The sooner the group comes to these realizations, the sooner things can proceed on a proper course.
Consider, too, that the dying process may not be a smooth, steady decline down a consistent slope. There are usually ups and downs—in physical health and in mental attitude. There may be days when the patient feels great and days when the patient feels terrible. For this reason, calling hospice sooner rather than later is recommended. When the patient is uncomfortable, a hospice staffer can be summoned and can attend to patient needs within a short period of time.
At Hope Hospice we frequently hear family members tell us, “We wish we had called you sooner.” We never hear anyone say, “We called you too soon.” If a patient’s condition improves, he or she can go off of hospice care. It does happen.
As always, we encourage you to call us with any questions you have about hospice. We know that there are many details about hospice care that are not always clear. Call us at Hope and let us shed some light. Reach Hope Hospice at 314-984-9800. Visit us online at hopehospicestl.com.
When the terminal diagnosis comes, reach out to us for help. Help for the patient. Help for the family.