Hospice is traditionally an option for people whose life expectancy is six months or less, and involves palliative care (pain and symptom relief) rather than ongoing curative measures, enabling you to live your last days to the fullest, with purpose, dignity, grace, and support. While some hospitals, nursing homes, and other health care facilities provide hospice care onsite, in most cases hospice is provided in the patient’s own home. This enables you to spend your final days in a familiar, comfortable environment, surrounded by your loved ones who can focus more fully on you with the support of hospice staff.
The term “palliative care” refers to any care that alleviates symptoms, even if there is hope of a cure by other means. It is an approach that focuses on the relief of pain, symptoms, and emotional stress brought on by serious illness. Your disease doesn’t have to be terminal for you to qualify for palliative care and, in the U.S., many palliative treatments are covered by Medicare. In some cases, palliative treatments may be used to alleviate the side effects of curative treatment, such as relieving the nausea associated with chemotherapy, which may help you tolerate more aggressive or longer-term treatment.
When is it time for hospice and palliative care?
It’s not time for hospice care and palliative instead of curative treatment if you are currently benefiting from treatments intended to cure your illness. For some terminally ill patients, though, there comes a point when treatment is no longer working. Continued attempts at treatment may even be harmful, or in some cases treatment might provide another few weeks or months of life, but will make you feel too ill to enjoy that time. While hope for a full recovery may be gone, there is still hope for as much quality time as possible to spend with loved ones, as well as hope for a dignified, pain-free death.
There isn’t a single specific point in an illness when a person should ask about hospice and palliative care; it very much depends on the individual.
The following are signs that you may want to explore options with hospice care:
- You’ve made multiple trips to the emergency room, your condition has been stabilized, but your illness continues to progress significantly, affecting your quality of life.
- You’ve been admitted to the hospital several times within the last year with the same or worsening symptoms.
- You wish to remain at home, rather than spend time in the hospital.
- You have decided to stop receiving treatments for your disease.
Article Resource: National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization