When to Seek Hospice Care
There may come a time when efforts to cure or slow an illness are not working and can even be harmful, rather than helpful. If that time comes, you should know that there's a type of palliative care - called hospice - that can help ensure that your final months of life are as good and fulfilling as they can be for you and your loved ones. Hospice is not about giving up. It's about giving you comfort, control, dignity and quality of life.
Insurers, Medicare, and Medicaid will generally provide coverage for hospice care if your doctors determine you likely have six months - in some cases a year - or less to live if your illness follows its normal course. Unfortunately, most people don't receive hospice care until the final weeks or even days of life, possibly missing out on months of quality time. This may be out of fear that choosing hospice means losing out on a chance for a cure. Sometimes doctors fear that their patients will feel abandoned if they suggest hospice.
So how do you know when it's time for hospice care? When to request hospice care is a personal decision, but it's important to understand that at a certain point, doing "everything possible" may no longer be helping you. Sometimes the burdens of a treatment outweigh the benefits. For instance, an aggressive treatment might give you another month of life, but make you feel too ill to enjoy that time. Palliative doctors can help you assess the advantages and disadvantages of specific treatments.
Hospice care can help you continue treatments that are maintaining or improving your quality of life. If your illness improves, you can leave hospice care at any time and return if and when you choose to.
Following are some signs that you may experience better quality of life with hospice care.
- You've made several trips to the emergency room, and your condition has been stabilized, but your illness continues to progress.
- You've been admitted to the hospital several times within the last year with the same symptoms.
- You wish to remain at home, rather than spend time in the hospital.
- You are no longer receiving treatments to cure your disease.
Hospice care is not for you if you are benefiting from treatments intended to cure your illness.