Senior woman with nurse in bed at home

3 Signs It May Be Time for Hospice Care

When it comes to ensuring the comfort and well-being of a  family member, transitioning into end-of-life care can be a challenging decision. However, local hospice care provides a dignified and supportive environment for your loved ones with incurable or terminal illnesses. Hospice is a specialized form of healthcare that focuses on providing comprehensive care, support, and comfort to individuals and their families who are nearing the end of their lives. Hospice is designed to tap into a person’s fullest quality of life when they have an advanced, or life-limiting illness. This includes both the person at the end of life as well as their loved ones.

Goals of hospice include assessing and managing the physical, emotional, cultural, and spiritual needs of a person to help alleviate suffering and provide comfort to all. This can include pain and symptom management, emotional and psychological support, assistance with activities of daily living, and even bereavement support for family members after their loved one has passed.

Hospice care is often available in select facilities, but is also available in the home. In fact, many people prefer to pass in the comfort of their own home among their family and friends. However, a hospice facility can be a great benefit for family and caregivers who have a break from providing care so that they can be present as a close loved one. Most hospice care (96%) is delivered in the patient’s residence to ensure comfort and avoid hospitalization (National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization, 2022)

Deciding when to ask for hospice care is a personal and complex decision that depends on the individual’s medical condition, prognosis, and the goals of care. It is also a decision that should be family led, with the person who is at end-of-life to be at the very center of the decision.

Here are some factors to consider when determining if hospice may be appropriate:

  1. Prognosis: Generally, hospice care is considered when a person has a life expectancy of six months or less, as determined by their healthcare provider. This estimation is based on the progression of their illness and treatment options available and can be provided by a physician or nurse practitioner. 
  2. Treatment options: If the person’s medical condition is no longer responding to curative treatments or if they have chosen to discontinue aggressive treatments, hospice care may be a suitable alternative. Hospice focuses on providing comfort care rather than seeking a cure. By choosing this option, some medications and treatments may be withdrawn to help minimize discomfort. Your medical team will review all of these in detail so you understand the benefits of this process. 
  3. Decline in health: If the individual’s health is rapidly declining, and they experience increased pain, discomfort, or other symptoms that impact their quality of life, hospice care can help manage these symptoms and improve their comfort. Hospice helps provide these tools and resources and they are typically dropped off to the house so you don’t have to worry about it. They will manage changing medications or supplies as death becomes more imminent. 
  4. Multiple hospitalizations: Frequent hospital admissions or emergency room visits may indicate that the person’s condition is worsening, and hospice care could provide more appropriate support and care in a different setting. People prefer to die at home in the comfort of their own surroundings. Dying in the hospital often means being hooked up to machines with frequent beeping and buzzing which is opposite of the soothing experience that people hope for. 
  5. Personal preferences: A person’s own wishes and goals for their end-of-life care should always be considered. It is important that we listen to the goals of the person, while taking into account the needs of the family. Some individuals may prefer to spend their remaining time in the comfort of their own home, surrounded by loved ones, rather than seeking further aggressive treatment.

It’s important to discuss the option of hospice care with the individual’s healthcare provider, who can provide guidance based on their medical condition and prognosis. Hospice providers can also conduct assessments and discussions to determine if the person meets the criteria for hospice care and help facilitate the transition when appropriate. If offered soon enough, hospice care can be preceded by palliative care. This type of care is also a supplemental service that can be made available while managing a complex health condition prior to transitioning to a quality of life focus at end of life.

While hospice care is an incredible resource, it is important to remember that unless you are in a hospice facility, hospice at home is not available 24/7. Hospice typically provides up to once a day visits, and encourages the loved ones to be able to manage the care at home. In most homes, hospice care is provided by more than one family member who will provide almost 65 hours of unpaid care per week (Kumar, et al., 2020).  To help decrease this burden, some families will look for outside support.

Options include hiring caregiving companies to help with additional care, or engaging private duty nurses to help administer medications, and educate the person and family in the dying process. Caring for a loved one at end-of-life is undoubtedly overwhelming, and making decisions about your loved one’s care becomes challenging. By selecting a compassionate private duty nursing service, you can rest assured that all their needs will be met, and a friendly nurse will be there to provide support for all. Coordinated visits and personalized care contribute to easing your mind during this challenging period.

If you or someone you love is facing a similar situation, contact Navi Nurses today. We offer professional in-home care services that you can trust to provide the utmost care and support for your loved ones during this challenging time. Our nurses will prioritize the comfort and quality of life for all.

Looking for information on palliative care? Read our recent blog for the most important benefits.