Has someone you love recently been diagnosed with a terminal or life-limiting illness?
If so, you may be wondering, “When is it time for hospice care”?
While no family member or caregiver ever wants to think about this option, in many cases, it does eventually become necessary. And because hospice care focuses on comfort and quality of life, it allows more time with your loved one to create treasured memories together.
Continue reading for guidance on when it may be time to seek hospice care for your loved one.
What is Hospice Care?
According to the Hospice Foundation of America, hospice care should provide:
- Medical assistance for individuals with life-limiting or terminal illnesses
- Compassionate care with a focus on the quality of life rather than extending life
- Support for the physical, psychological, social, and spiritual needs of both the patient and their family or caregivers
- Professional symptom management, coordinated care, communication, and help with decision making
Now that you know a bit about what hospice care is, it is also essential to cover what it is not.
Hospice care is not intended to treat medical disorders or diseases. Hospice is specialized care for those who no longer wish to seek curative treatment. It focuses on the patient’s comfort and goals.
It is also essential to remember that hospice care is not just limited to care for patients with specific diseases like cancer, and any person regardless of age who has been diagnosed with a terminal or life-limiting condition may qualify for hospice services.
Some people may also believe that hospice is not provided to those living in their own home. Hospice care can be provided wherever a patient may call home, including their own home, a nursing facility, assisted living facility, hospital, or hospice care center. Continue to our additional hospice resources to learn more.
Physical Signs it May be Time for Hospice Care
Eventually, some terminally ill patients experience a decline in health, at which point curative treatment is no longer an option. This is a strong indication that it is time to consider hospice care.
Because the end-of-life stage varies so greatly from patient to patient, each case must be assessed individually. However, there are some common indications that a patient is moving into their end-of-life journey.
Some of the most commonly observed physical signs include:
- A rapid decline in health despite continued medical treatment
- Repeated hospitalizations or trips to the emergency room
- Frequent or recurring infections
- Uncontrolled symptoms including pain, nausea, or vomiting
- A notable increase in the amount of time spent sleeping
- Sudden loss of urinary or bowel control
- Persistent chest congestion and/or rapid breathing
- A notable decrease in food and fluid intake
- Changes in body temperature, like fever or feeling cool to the touch
- Restlessness, body ticks, or repetitive motions
- Inability to perform daily tasks like bathing and dressing without assistance
If some of these indicators sound familiar and you are wondering if hospice is the right choice, it could be that your loved one is moving closer toward the end of life. However, not every patient may go directly into hospice care. Those that do not meet qualifying criteria to receive hospice care may be appropriate for palliative care.
Hospice Care and Mental Health
Knowing when it is time to look into hospice care for someone you love goes far beyond physical symptoms. Mental and emotional indicators that the end of life is approaching are just as important. And they may be far more difficult for family members and caregivers to understand.
Some of the most common mental and emotional end of life signs include:
- Rapid withdrawal from family, friends, community members, and loved ones
- Giving away personal belongings
- Sudden changes in personality
- Making statements or requests that seem out of character
- Experiencing visions, lucid dreams, or hallucinations
- Making apologies, saying goodbye, and other closure-seeking behaviors
- Making funeral plans
It can be incredibly difficult to see these changes in your loved one. If some of these behaviors sound familiar, remember to stay strong. Feelings of grief are normal and can be overwhelming at times. You are encouraged to seek support if you need it.
Further Insight on When it May be Time to Call Hospice
Making the decision for your loved one to receive hospice care does not mean that you are giving up. Consider the safety and comfort that hospice care might offer someone you care about during the end-of-life journey. You will be helping them live their remaining days to the fullest, increasing their quality of life, allowing them to stay close to loved ones, and helping manage their most challenging symptoms.
Because each patient’s transition is so different, there is no set timeline or right time to start hospice. However, a common phrase heard from many loved ones is, “I should have contacted you sooner.” Deciding to start hospice services sooner allows your loved one to enjoy the benefits of this special care for as long as possible.
Accessing Compassionate Hospice Care
Now with more knowledge on how to know when it may be time to reach out for hospice care, you might be considering this specialized end-of-life care for your loved one. With the right team of hospice health care workers on your side, you may be able to significantly improve the quality of life for someone you care about.
If you are still unsure exactly when to call hospice or have more questions, EverHeart Hospice is here to help. Contact a team member today at 1.800.417.7535 to learn about our admission process, hospice and palliative care programs, and grief support.