One of the great misconceptions of hospice care is that it is only for those who are just days away from dying. We at Hope Hospice work to educate the St. Louis community that hospice is for all persons who have a life expectancy of 6 months or less.
But some hospice patients live beyond the 6-month time period. Upon reevaluation, a patient may be determined to be well enough to go off of hospice care. Or a patient may be recertified to allow care to continue. Hope Hospice closely follows state and federal guidelines regarding patient eligibility.
A recent article on hospice care that ran in the Washington Post points suggests reasons why some patients outlive “a legitimate prognosis of six months.” Citing an executive at the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization and others, the article states: “A larger portion of patients today have diseases whose outcomes are harder to predict. That’s because the portion of hospice patients suffering from cancer, a disease that has a more predictable course, has shrunk.”
An article distributed by McClatchy newspapers in 2006 shares details of a Harvard Medical School study of doctors’ diagnoses of terminally ill patients: “In 4 out of 5 cases doctors’ estimates of how long a patient would live were wide of the mark by at least a third. That is, for a patient who actually died in 30 days, 80 percent of doctors predicted 20 days or less or 40 days or more.”
One reason for the increased number of hospice survivors may be the actual care provided by hospices. The McClatchy article suggests: “With the focused attention of hospice doctors, nurses, social workers and spiritual counselors, patients get their medications adjusted and take them regularly. They get painkillers adequate to assure a night’s sleep. They eat regularly, and their loved ones get some help and relief. ”
A clinical director at a hospice in Pennsylvania said, “Often, just taking away the pain and enabling them to sleep through the night gives people a second wind.”
If you have questions about hospice care and the benefits of hospice care, please call Hope Hospice at 314-984-9800.