When Is Discussing Hospice with Your Patient the Best Option Instead of the Last Option?
A physician or healthcare provider's job is to do everything they can to extend life and ensure quality of life in the process. Broaching the subject of hospice with a patient and their family can feel like a failure of sorts. Are they “giving up” on the patient? Are they suggesting there is no longer any hope for remission or a cure?
Recommending hospice can feel like a struggle; however, statistics show that starting hospice earlier not only enhances quality of life, but prolongs it.
Hospice care is not about giving up hope, but shifting it. Whereas hope once centered on curing the patient, now it focuses on providing them with opportunities to live their life to the fullest, which may have been difficult while they were in the midst of curative medical therapies and procedures. With hope redefined as making the most of the “here and now,” patients can prioritize personal choice and freedom. They can set goals to be fully present for important life events, such as mending a relationship, visiting a special place, or attending a baptism or wedding.
Hospice care is available to patients with six months or less to live. However, according to a study conducted by the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, half of hospice patients received care for 13 or fewer days, meaning they had little time to make and plan for their last requests. For this reason, it is crucial that physicians and healthcare workers approach the subject of hospice much earlier.
It’s important to help patients understand that hospice is not a decision from which there is “no turning back.” In fact, 17% of hospice patients end up discontinuing care, either because they change their mind or they see improvements in their condition. Hospice care, whether starting or stopping it, is always about personal freedom and choice.
Putting Quality of Life First
Hospice does not have to be a scary word. Physicians and healthcare providers can help patients understand the purpose and value of hospice by stressing improved quality of life. Hospice patients report less pain, incur fewer hospital deaths, and often have a longer life—from a few more days to several more weeks—compared to those receiving conventional care.
Since hospice care workers understand that quality of life comes first, they put their efforts into maximizing comfort and enjoyment. The Hospice of North Central Ohio, for example, incorporates virtual reality experiences into their services, providing their patients with opportunities to have adventures and visit those places on their “bucket lists.” And since 97% of hospice care takes place in the home, patients can stay close to the sights, sounds, and faces most important to them.
Hospice care can be a difficult discussion for physicians, patients, and families. However, the earlier the conversation is begun, the more physicians can help patients put life first, on their terms. If you’re looking for information to share with patients, we’re here as a resource: 800-952-2207.