Generally speaking, I’ve found that the longer the patient is in hospice care, the greater the satisfaction experienced by the family and patient. This is because time is the greatest factor for the development of relationships. It is a factor in building trust with the care managers, physicians and all of the team members who provide comfort during the final days. Time also allows the family to learn about the services provided by hospice.
Most patients and families are unaware that upon admission to hospice they will have 24-hour support from all disciplines, including spiritual care, nursing care, social work and physician care. Medical equipment, medications and personal care supplies are provided, and they also receive the assistance of a personal aide several days a week.
When hospice care is elected for an individual, all disciplines of the hospice team are required by Medicare regulations to evaluate the patient within the first five days of the election period. It is in that first five days that the needs of the patient can be assessed and additional services, such as therapy or dietary needs, can be identified and started.
Many people do not know when to call hospice and what to expect. Some families are hesitant to call hospice or even palliative care professionals because the word “hospice” is associated with death. This is juxtaposed with the patient’s struggle to live and the struggle with the reality that the end is approaching.
A variety of information is available to determine if hospice care is appropriate. Reach out to your personal physician or give us a call at 410-871-8000 if you have questions about hospice or palliative care. Our website, bridginglifecare.org, also has information that can help you decide if hospice care is right for you or your loved one.
The importance of talking with a medical professional early in the individual’s illness as opposed to doing so in the final days of their life cannot be stressed enough.
Delaying the decision will mean that the individual may spend their last days without the comfort, care and support that hospice care can offer.
John W. Middleton, M.D., is the medical director at BridgingLife.