Many families wait to call hospice until the final days and weeks of their loved one’s life, not knowing they could have started receiving additional specialized nursing care and medications, medical equipment and supplies related to their loved one’s terminal illness at no cost much earlier. Hospice care improves the patient’s quality of life by managing pain and other symptoms of their illness and improves the family/caregiver’s lives by having someone that they can lean on, seek guidance from and receive much needed support during this difficult time.
If you are seeing the following signs and wondering when is it time to call hospice, it may be time now. In order to access hospice care, your loved one must be diagnosed by a physician with a terminal illness with less than six months to live if the illness follows its typical path. If your loved one lives beyond this six month timeframe, they can continue to receive hospice care as long as a physician recertifies their eligibility.
Video: When to Begin Hospice
Signs it's time to call hospice
You should call hospice if your loved one is experiencing any of the symptoms below:
A few months before the end of life, the patient may begin to sleep more and spend less time staying awake. This is because the body’s metabolism is becoming weaker and thus causes a lack of wakefulness.
If your loved ones are sleeping more, make sure they are comfortable and let them sleep. When your loved ones are active, you should encourage them to get out of the bed to avoid bed sores.
As the body activities decrease, energy needs decline. Your loved ones may avoid foods that are hard to chew or digest. Moreover, they may simply start declining meals. While this can be an emotionally upsetting time for the family, towards the end of life excessive eating can do more harm than good.
Give your loved ones the freedom to eat when they are hungry. Offer them foods that are easy to digest. Also, remember to never rush your loved ones to finish their meals. Rather give them enough time to eat at their own pace.
Becoming Less Social
People who are dying slowly often choose to withdraw from activities and people they love. There is a natural desire to protect their final days or hours. Moreover, as they have reduced energy levels, they may not enjoy spending time with people.
Withdrawal from people they love doesn’t mean that you are not important to them anymore. Instead of feeling defensive or offended, make your loved one comfortable. Give them the space they need.
Increased Physical Pain
As a person near his death, the pain levels may increase. Moreover, it is not uncommon for aging adults to show visible signs of pain. These signs can include scowling, grimacing, groaning or wincing.
While most pains can be treated with medications, dying people may not be able to swallow a tablet. This is when you need to speak to your doctor to find an alternative method to administer the medication.
This is a warning sign as towards the end of life, most people experience changes in their breathing. They may experience a long stretch of time between breaths or sudden grasps of air. This is the body’s way of signaling the heart and the lungs that it needs more oxygen. Near the very end, the patient may experience excessive secretions that can create a loud gurgling noise. Some people call it death rattle.
It is important to understand that it is a natural part of the dying process and the patient is unaware of the bodily changes.
In order to access hospice care, your loved one must be diagnosed by a physician with a terminal illness with less than six months to live if the illness follows its typical path. If your loved one lives beyond this six month timeframe, they can continue to receive hospice care as long as a physician recertifies their eligibility.
What can hospice do for my loved one?
Hospice care is an additional layer of support for your loved one in their home or care facility, working in partnership with your family and your loved one’s physicians. When a patient begins hospice care, they receive a team of support for their physical, emotional, and spiritual needs. In addition to this team of care, all medication related to the patient’s terminal illness and all medical equipment and supplies related to this diagnosis are provided at no cost to the patient or family.
If your loved one is experiencing
pain, our team of pain management experts will work to
control their pain quickly and efficiently. If they are have trouble
sleeping or experiencing other discomfort or mobility issues, our
team will work with your loved one’s physician to address these
If your loved one’s condition improves while on hospice care or if they elect to pursue curative treatments over comfort care, they may discontinue hospice care at any time and pursue other options. Your loved one may resume hospice care at a later date if their condition declines.
Choosing hospice is never easy. However, hospice care can make the difference between a stressful, negative end-of-life situation and one that is more comfortable. Consider asking your doctor about hospice care sooner—for yourself or for a loved one—and hopefully, you’ll be able to get the care you need.
To find hospice care, please use the pull down menu above.
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