5 Signs A Loved One Needs Hospice Care

5 signs a loved one needs hospice care

Our culture suffers from common “hospice care myths” that block loved ones and families from getting the well-rounded support and comfort care they need. Studies published in the Journal of The American Geriatric Society found that most people wait far too long to start hospice care, prolonging the pain and suffering of their loved ones and blocking their ability to enjoy a higher quality of life. 

These findings agree with other hospice studies that enlisting palliative and hospice care sooner rather than later extends and improves the quality of life for patients, caregivers, and families. As professional in-home caregivers, we see over and over again how much clients benefit when they have access to the full spectrum of hospice support services as soon as they can receive them.

Hospice Services Improve Quality Of Life For Patients & Families

If your loved one is diagnosed with a terminal or chronic prognosis, or age-related declines make them increasingly frail, it’s time to connect with hospice services in your area to learn more about them, their services, and how they can support you.

Hospice Care 101

For a more comprehensive description of palliative care vs. hospice care, Click Here. The quick version is that palliative care is comfort care provided for patients pursuing curative treatments. It may be partially or fully covered by insurance but typically requires out-of-pocket payment. Hospice care is 100% free to all, but patients must cease curative treatments (medications to support and manage existing health conditions are fine). 

Once you begin hospice care, clients and families have access to:

  • Regular visits from hospice nurses
  • Aides that come to help with bathing and hygiene care once a week
  • Free delivery of all necessary durable medical equipment and medications
  • Social worker visits
  • Spiritual advisors
  • Support creating comprehensive end-of-life plans
  • Grief counselors
  • Education and information about what happens when we die
  • Volunteers provide a range of services, from weekly respite care and grocery shopping trips to gardening and pet care.

The combination of family caregivers (if available), in-home caregivers for longer-term shifts, and hospice care providers support daily life for those who require increasing levels of physical care. 

So, while hospice is certainly considered an essential component of heart-centered end-of-life care, it by no means equates with giving up or dying. It’s about acknowledging “what is” and creating the most supportive, comfortable, and high-quality environment to support patients and families.

You’re Ready For Hospice Care When…

Here are five of the biggest signs you’re ready for hospice. Or, at the very least, these signs should inspire you to connect with hospice care providers in your area to learn more about what they offer.

Treatments are no longer working, or treatment/appointment rigor diminishes quality of life

The modern medical system isn’t very good at telling patients, “we can’t do anything to fix you.” When you have a terminal diagnosis, there are rare cases where a “complete cure” is possible. Most of the time, you’re offered treatment regimes that extend life and help you live with the disease or condition, but at what expense? In many cases, the treatments cause side effects that make it difficult or impossible to enjoy life. Financial costs often override any physical/emotional benefits, and they become exhausting. If this is the case, it’s time to consider hospice.

Then, there is the normal ebbing of life due to old age. In that case, there might not be an ‘official’ diagnosis, but a loved one’s appetite wanes, daily life becomes more challenging, and they begin to turn more inward and lose interest in the outside world (entirely unrelated to depression).

Both of these scenarios are a cue to look at sooner-rather-than-later end-of-life plans – and hospice helps with that. 

Symptoms are more difficult to manage

In the beginning of a loved one’s diagnosis or decline, appointments, treatments, and medication for symptom management may have been straightforward. Then, there is a tipping point. Suddenly, symptoms increase, your loved one is almost perpetually unhappy or uncomfortable, and family or hired caregivers are being run ragged trying to hold it all together. 

This is a major red flag that something needs to give. Contacting hospice is a wise next step.

A loved one needs hospice care when they can no longer manage daily tasks

There is a certain point in almost every aging adult’s life when they need help with day-to-day living in order to retain vibrancy, energy, a healthy diet, social engagement, etc. As long as they are generally healthy and content, and their health issues are manageable, in-home care support is all that’s needed.

However, if your loved one is ailing as the result of a chronic or terminal medical condition or is in mid-stage dementia, the combination of hospice care and family or professional caregivers helps them with all the daily tasks that they’re no longer capable of, like:

  • Mobility transfers
  • Bathing, changing, and other hygiene needs
  • Toileting and incontinence care
  • Meal planning and preparation (hospice volunteers often do grocery shopping, but family or hired caregivers need to provide meal prep and feeding)

This level of decline requires the comprehensive support provided by hospice.

They are showing signs of consistent decline

Those with a terminal diagnosis should remain relatively healthy, alert, and able to enjoy daily life and the things that bring them joy. By the time they’re showing the following signs of decline, patients typically need hospice because their current plan isn’t serving the business of “living life to its fullest:”

  • A physician acknowledges they probably have around six months or less to live if the disease follows its general course OR that they feel the patient’s quality of life is not worth the invasive or exhausting treatment protocols. 
  • Palliative (comfort care) is more of a focus on getting through the day than “living”
  • Loss of 10% or more body weight in the past four to six months
  • Three or more ER or urgent care visits in the last few months
  • Mental alertness is waning
  • They’re spending more time resting or sleeping than actively interacting
  • Daily tasks are impossible to maintain without help

Slow declines are difficult to see from the inside because you’re witnessing the progression. An objective hospice team or caregiver is often the best judge of when it’s time to contact hospice.

You Suspect they’re “hanging on” for others’ sake OR you’re waiting for “the miracle”

Many people know they’re dying and want to talk about the fact they’re dying, but they can’t because spouses and loved ones don’t let them. These individuals suffer for months and years to make others happy. However, in the end, the outcome is the same, and life can be much richer when everyone is honest and present with what’s happening.

If you suspect your loved one is dying, but everyone’s waiting for “the miracle,” it’s time to contact hospice. Miracles happen, but why not take advantage of all that hospice has to offer in the meantime, prioritizing the care and comfort of your loved one? They’ll provide all of the support and resources you need to have real conversations. Yes, it’s very sad and may even feel unthinkable. But the last thing you want is for someone you love to suffer unnecessarily when they’re ready – and needing – to make their way forward into the inevitable.

We Can Support The Transition When A Loved One Needs Hospice Care

The team at HomeAide Home Care works collaboratively with hospice teams throughout the bay area to support the well-being of clients and their families. Our caregivers can fill the gaps between family care and hospice support, including everything from companionship, overnight stays, and meal preparation to respite care and errand running. Contact us to schedule a FREE assessment and learn more about how we can help.

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