How to Help a Loved One in Hospice Care

According to statistics from the USA Today, twice as many elderly people passed away in hospice care last year than in nursing home or hospital care, in comparison with statistics from a decade ago. Even so, a study from The Journal of the American Medical Association says that this care is still regarded as a last resort, and is often not utilized at all by families to benefit the patient. It is usually used too late to do any good, if at all.

Researchers examined the records of hospice care service more than 800,000 people over age 66 and found that hospitalization, health care transitions, and intensive-care increased in the last month of a patient’s life before they entered hospice. The length of patient stays in intensive care also increased. Hospice care is meant to control pain, and address the physical, emotional, and spiritual needs of dying patients and their families, but many only seemed to view it as an accompaniment to an aggressive care routine during the patient’s last days.

The reasons patients didn’t enroll were organized into three categories: first was the patient and family perception that they were “not ready”; program-specific issues were in the second category. For example, programs have variable definitions of what types of patients are considered eligible; third were system issues and concerns about the continuity of care. However, most programs are willing answer questions and work with patients and their families, no matter what their individual care levels may require.

Doctors say that moving a patient into a nursing home or going to intensive care during their last days is disruptive to a person trying to find closure. It can also disrupt sleep and medicine schedules, which can be traumatic for a person near the end of life. Hospice care has been shown to help patients with terminal illnesses feel more peaceful and live longer. Provide your loved one with the comfort and compassionate care they deserve by taking advantage of a program in your area.

Talking to social workers, doctors, and nurses can help you find a program. You can also contact your local office on aging, or check the online directory for the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization.