Deciding When It’s Time for Hospice Care

Hundreds of times each year, patients and families tell us: “We wish we would have entered your hospice program sooner.” It’s a common misconception that hospice care is only for the last few days or weeks of life when, in fact, patients and families can benefit the most when they have hospice for the final months of life. Here are some questions that may help you and your family determine when the time is right for hospice care.

What types of diseases are helped the most by hospice care?

Hospice is beneficial for anyone, of any age, with any life-limiting disease, including but not limited to the final stages of cancer, lung, heart and kidney disease, Alzheimer’s, stroke and neuromuscular diseases.

When is someone “eligible” for hospice care?

Medicare, Medicaid and most private pay insurance companies provide coverage for hospice care when physicians predict a patient has six months or less life prognosis and curative treatment is either not wanted or is no longer effective. Please understand that the six-month prognosis is merely a guideline. Hospice personnel evaluate patients regularly, and as long as their condition can be documented as showing decline, they are re-certified for hospice coverage as long as they need it.

Won’t our doctors tell us when it’s time for hospice care?

Not always. Many physicians will continue to pursue treatment because they assume it’s what you and your family want. In other cases, such as congestive heart failure or COPD, it is difficult for them to predict the rate of a patient’s decline. Be proactive. Ask the physician about hospice or contact us directly. It is important for you to understand the benefits of curative vs. comfort care, and that you and your doctor share the same goals for maintaining quality of life. Quality of life is important to us here at Central Wyoming Hospice & Transitions.  We believe everyone should have the right to die with dignity and with their pain in control and their symptoms managed.

What are some of the signs that a person may be ready for hospice care?

Symptoms vary by patient. The important thing to remember is that when you or a loved one is faced with a life-limiting illness, we can be there to help along the way. Our Transitions Program is ideal for those who have a life prognosis of one year or less. We will assign a case manager who can monitor the need for additional assistance and a volunteer who can help with many tasks around the home. Outpatient or residential hospice care is available to patients with a six-month or less life prognosis. The sooner you contact Hospice, the more we can do to add quality to the last days, weeks or months of a patient’s life.

Can a patient stop hospice care?

Yes, patients always have the right to choose what type of care they receive. And if the patient and their physicians decide to try another approach, we will assist them in making that transition.

Will a patient die sooner in hospice care?

Studies at Duke University show that patients have a tendency to live an average of 29 days longer while under hospice care. Patients sometimes thrive under hospice care. It varies greatly by the patient but we occasionally transition people off hospice care because they are no longer declining.

Can we call Central Wyoming Hospice & Transitions even if we don’t think it’s “time?”

Certainly. We believe strongly in providing resources to families about end-of-life care, whether or not they are in our program. Call us for information or for a tour. If it appears hospice care would be beneficial, we will, with your permission, contact your doctor to discuss it.

Derived from information from Hospice of Northwest Ohio

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Central Wyoming Hospice & Transitions (CWHTP) depends upon donations from individuals and businesses, as well as grants and fundraisers to offset the ever increasing gap between third party reimbursements and the actual costs of providing services.

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