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Is Hospice the Right Choice?

Making the decision to enter hospice can be an emotional and difficult experience. In order to transition from curative to palliative care, patients and their families often need time to process information and adjust to a mindset of accepting the disease instead of fighting it. Hospice is medical care that begins when curative care is no longer feasible or desired. It focuses on providing comfort and pain control for the patient, as well as support for the family members and loved ones.

Who should make the decision for a person to enter a hospice program?

By law, the decision belongs to the patient. Most often the patient’s physician and family are also involved in the process.

How will I know when it is time?

Medically speaking, the decision to enter hospice generally occurs when your physician informs you that you have less than six months to live, and it is no longer feasible to continue life-sustaining treatments. Emotionally, the decision may not happen for some time after receiving such a diagnosis. It may take a while for a person to come to terms with what is happening.

At what point in the illness is it best to call hospice?

It is recommended that patients enter the program when they are still able to appreciate the pain and symptom control benefits. These measures enable patients to spend the last part of their lives free from unnecessary levels of pain. Sadly, in many cases, patients are not admitted into a hospice program until a few days prior to their death. Although it is still possible to manage pain at this point, it is often so late in the disease progression that the patients are no longer able to communicate with loved ones.

What can I expect?

Once a determination has been made to stop curative care, and hospice services have become involved, a patient and their family should expect to receive:

What if I want to go back to regular treatment?

Individuals may choose to leave the program at any time. They can also be readmitted at a later date.

Professional admissions coordinators are available to answer any questions you may have about hospice. They are available to come to you and will discuss more specific details about the program, and to go over issues that may be unique to your situation. It is recommended that any decision makers, including a spouse and/or adult children be present for the meeting. This ensures that all loved ones are included in the care plan that will be designed for the patient.

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Boomers Resource Guide is a special supplement to the Senior Citizen's Guide