I know – the word “hospice” conjures up thoughts of “death” and “final days”, etc. But honestly, hospice is so much more than that and if you are struggling to care for an elderly parent or senior loved one – then please put those ideas away for the moment and read about how hospice can help YOU and your elderly loved one.
When to call hospice for elderly care? – Hospice should be called in when an elderly loved one’s health and ability to perform tasks is declining. It does not mean that they are going to pass away in the next few days (as most people think). Hospice can care for their patients for years as long as they continue to show decline when they are re-evaluated.
My mother was very physically independent, showed no signs of cognitive decline but she was extremely anxious. As a result, every cough, every little ache that she had would cause her to go into a panic and call my sister to take her to the hospital.
Needless to say, my poor sister had multiple 2 am phone calls and drives to the hospital emergency room.
In her last 2 years of life my mother was admitted to 3 different hospitals 8 times – basically for panic attacks.
This, of course, put a great deal of stress and strain on our family (especially my sister) who had her own family to care for as well as a full time job.
After speaking to a dear friend who worked in hospice for 25 plus years – we decided to ask the hospital doctor for a hospice evaluation. (Which by the way he was against). We pushed for it anyway and to our surprise, my mom qualified for hospice.
The reason was that she had a diagnosis that was terminal (which we were unaware of) and her disease was progressing.
So, even though outwardly she seemed fine to us – her body was beginning to decline due to her disease. Without hospice we would have never known that.
When Should An Elderly Person Be In Hospice?
The truth of the matter is that the great majority of families do not take advantage of all the wonderful benefits that are available to them via hospice programs.
The common misconception about when it’s time to enter Hospice is when the person is literally in their death bed with what seems to be a day or two left on this planet.
But oh, what a great misconception that is!
The truth of the matter is that the services that Hospice could provide to the elderly person AND their caregivers are so much more.
So, when should an elderly person be in hospice? – In my opinion, as soon as your elderly parent is in need of a caregiver – a call to Hospice for an evaluation might save you a lot of time and headaches down the road.
When Should You Contact Hospice?
Amedisys Hospice has a wonderful short quiz that you can take to determine whether or not it’s “time” to call Hospice.
The questions in that quiz are…
- Been hospitalized or gone to ER several times in past 6 months?
- Been making more frequent phone calls to your physicians?
- Started taking medication to lessen physical pain?
- Started spending most of the day in a chair or bed?
- Fallen several times over the past 6 months?
- Started needing help with one or more of the following?
(bathing, dressing, eating, getting out of bed, walking)
- Started feeling weaker or more tired?
- Experienced weight loss making clothes noticeably looser?
- Noticed a shortness of breath, even while resting?
- Been told by a doctor that life expectancy is limited?
As you can see – many older adults will be able to say “yes” to many of these.
My own mother would have been able to say “yes” to 6 of these (although honestly, she may have not admitted it!)
If your elderly loved one can say “yes” to any of these, I would encourage you to contact your local Hospice and ask them for more information on their services and how they may be able to help you.
How Long Can Palliative Care Last?
Palliative care is specialized medical care for people living with a serious illness. This type of care is focused on providing relief from the symptoms and stress of the illness. The goal is to improve quality of life for both the patient and the family. – getpalliativecare.org
What I believe many families don’t understand is that palliative care can be provided for years which can be a blessing for many elders and their families if they are dealing with an illness that can last for many years.
Palliative care can be provided to patients that don’t necessarily have a terminal illness. It can be administered at the start when someone is diagnosed.
What Is The Difference Between Comfort Care And Hospice?
The type of treatment that Hospice provides is considered to be “comfort care”. Most people associate hospice with palliative care – but you should know the difference between these two terms.
Where palliative care can begin at the onset of the diagnosis and be provided throughout treatment – comfort care begins when there is no longer any treatment available.
In other words – when the elderly person or the medical physician stops any treatment for an illness – then comfort care begins.
As far as the details of what type of service is provided with each service – there really isn’t much difference. The biggest difference comes in the type of medical treatments and medications.
Does Hospice Hasten Death?
When my mother passed away, she was on Hospice and she was taking small doses of Morphine to help her breathe. That worked very well for her – it also helped to greatly reduce her anxiety that she had been battling with for years.
I remember that someone said to me “So, you killed her.” They said that because we were giving her the morphine.
I replied by saying “No, that morphine helped her to breath – otherwise she was gasping for air even while she was on Oxygen so no, we did not kill her.”
People say the craziest things when someone dies!
The purpose of Hospice is not to bring on death sooner than it would have. The purpose of Hospice is to keep the person as comfortable and pain free as possible UNTIL they pass away.
Obviously, the majority of hospice patients do pass away within hospice care, and this likely explains how this misconception came to be. But the truth is, hospice care does not speed up death. In fact, those who employ hospice care may live longer than those who choose not to use hospice services. – abramsonseniorcare.org
In fact, there are studies that show that people actually live longer when under Hospice care.
The 9 Benefits Of Hospice For Caregivers
Here is my list of the 9 great benefits that Hospice can offer for caregivers of their elderly loved ones.
- An assessment by Hospice is free.
- You can go in and out of hospice – just because you sign up with hospice does not mean you are stuck there for a length of time.
- Hospice re-evaluates you for the program every few months. My mother’s Hospice nurse told us she has had patients under her care for up to 3 years.
- Most hospice programs have volunteers – these volunteers are there to help YOU, the caregiver by coming in to stay with your elderly parent when you need to get out.
- You have access to a nurse 24/7. So, if your elderly parent is ill during the night and you’re not sure what to do – you can simply call your contact number and you will be connected to a nurse on call who can help you.
- Medications and medical equipment are delivered to your door as you need them. Now – not ALL medications are covered. Hospice does not generally cover medications that are not related to the illness that qualified that patient for hospice in the first place.
- Emotional support by clergy, nurses and social workers are available to both the patient and the caregiver.
- There are aides available who can provide services like bathing your loved one which for some caregivers who are taking care of elderly who are bed bound can be a very helpful service.
- Some hospice programs now offer telehealth services in addition to in home visitations which can be a great comfort to not only the patient but the family caregivers as well.
Here are some books that I can recommend for you to read up on the topic of Hospice.