Home care is typically provided to support elderly and disabled people as they live out their lives in their own home as independently as possible, but there is an element of home care assistance that is used during the last months of a person’s life. It focuses entirely on comfort during the time leading up to their passing. This is called Hospice Care, which is part of Palliative Care.
Hospice care is used when a disease has progressed far enough that doctors do not believe their patient will live past another 6 months. While it’s an upsetting decision to have to make, there are some very important things for both the patient and their family to know about transitioning to hospice care.
- It’s your choice: Though hospice care is often recommended by a doctor when they know their patient has less than 6 months to live, only the patient can choose to begin with a hospice care program. Once hospice care is chosen, the patient can also opt back into aggressive treatment of their disease at any time.
- It’s not taken lightly: When a doctor recommends hospice care to a patient, it’s not a decision that has been reached lightly. It’s likely that many specialists and experts have reviewed their case and determined that there are limited months left in a person’s life due to a rapidly progressing disease. Choosing hospice care will ensure these remaining months are comfortable and that the patient, their family, and friends are prepared for their loved one’s passing.
- You won’t be alone: Hospice care involves a team of professionals that are all specially trained in the nuances of end-of-life and palliative medicine. Not only will your family have the guidance of your primary doctor, but a team of pain management specialists, spiritual advisers, therapists, and volunteers will all be available to help comfort you while you undergo this transition.
- Learn about your options early: In the early stages of a serious disease, it is understandably difficult to think about what may happen towards the end of a patient’s life. When you are able, it is important to consider what your wishes might be, in case there is a turn for the worse. Some patients undergoing treatment will want to exhaust every option they have until the very end, but even so, you don’t want to be unprepared if you choose to pursue hospice care at the end of the patient’s life.
- It doesn’t mean you failed: Whether you are the patient, yourself, or you are caring for a family member considering hospice care, choosing to start a hospice care program does not mean you have failed in the treatment of the disease. It means that you are still actively choosing what’s best for the patient in this situation. Rather than artificially (and painfully) prolonging treatment, your family is opting for a plan that helps them to feel comfortable in the time they have left.
Hospice care is a hard subject for many families to consider, but it can help a great deal at the end of a person’s life. The loving care of professionals trained in end-of-life medicine and palliative care can greatly improve the quality of the remaining months you have together, and give you opportunities to make lasting memories with your loved one before their passing.