Hospice is reserved for individuals who have terminal illnesses and whose life expectancy is measured in weeks or months rather than years. Although many patients are referred to hospice by their physician, patients and their families may contact hospice directly.
Hospice patients have many different illnesses including cancer, end-stage congestive heart failure, lung disease, advanced Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s diseases as well as many other. Hospice care is appropriate when an individual’s illness no longer responds to curative treatment or the patient and family no longer wish to pursue treatments. When all avenues of treatment have been exhausted or when the person no longer wishes to undergo painful or unpleasant procedures. Hospice helps shift the focus from curing the disease to caring for the person.
Unfortunately, many people are referred to hospice quite late in their illness. Hospice professionals have found that people who enroll early have more time to build trusting relationships with the hospice team. Early enrollment also helps the hospice team get the person’s symptoms and pain under control, sometimes preventing the negative symptoms altogether.
Some of the advantages for the patient and his or her family are the following:
- Hospice addresses the physical, social, emotional and spiritual needs of the patient and the family
- Hospice staff are on call 24/7
- Living at home helps the person and family maintain a sense of normalcy.
- The person and family have more control over the care that is provided
- Hospice team members are specially trained in pain control methods and in working with people with terminal illness and their families
- Comfort, dignity and quality of life are priorities
- The privacy of the home allows for expression of grief, anger and love, making the path to accepting death easier
- When the person lives in a facility, there are more people involved in care providing increased attention to the person’s needs
- The dying person has the opportunity to focus on living as well as possible until his or her death
- The family has the ability to provide care and love during the patient’s final days.