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Blog: Stories and Insight

What is the Average Hospice Life Expectancy?

It’s natural to ask the question “what is the average hospice life expectancy?” when you, or a loved one, is facing a terminal injury or illness. After all, you want to know if South Jersey hospice care can extend life.

Hospice is not an exact science. Generally, doctors will recommend hospice care to you if you have received a forecast of the likely outcome of an illness, of six months or less to live.

When receiving hospice care in South Jersey, you will be provided with comfort, support, and dignity by a team of medical professionals – physicians, nurses, home health aides, and social workers – with additional visits from spiritual support counselors, and others such as massage and music therapists for pain and stress relief, as needed.

The goal of hospice care is to allow you, or someone you care about, to receive care in the comfort of your South Jersey home – wherever you call home – surrounded by your loved ones, instead of enduring lengthy, stressful and often expensive hospital stays.

So, what is the average hospice life expectancy? The answer is not so simple.

Every Illness – and Every Patient – Has a Different Hospice Life Expectancy

If you or your loved one, is facing a six-month prognosis in South Jersey, then a referral to hospice may come from your physician or specialist. However, no physician can predict a patient’s future with perfect accuracy. Just because you have been referred to hospice doesn’t mean you have a short hospice life expectancy.

Many hospice patients can outlive their doctors’ prognoses. However, timing is key – when you are referred to hospice too late, you may not have the opportunity to receive the full spectrum of critical hospice care services that can help you accomplish your goals and wishes and overcome your fears.

A study from the Western Journal of Medicine noticed that many come to hospice at a time of health crisis and rapid physical change, when they actually may have benefitted from earlier admission. The study also suggested that physicians should “define better landmarks or turning points in prognosis and begin to acknowledge these to themselves and their patients” to “adequately guide patients through the dying process.” Hospice staff often hear from patients’ families: “If we’d only known all that hospice can do, how much it helped, we would have called sooner.”

Similarly, there is hospice eligibility criteria and requirements that physicians and loved ones should watch for, so that a hospice referral can be made in a timely manner.

If you or a loved one has a life-limiting illness in South Jersey, please contact Samaritan to learn how we can help. Call us 24/7 at (800) 229-8183.

What Studies Show for Hospice Life Expectancy

So what is the hospice life expectancy of someone utilizing hospice in South Jersey? Multiple studies have shown that average hospice life expectancy may be a bit longer when compared to patients not using hospice care:

  • A study published in the Journal of Pain and Symptom Management looked at select cohorts of patients dealing with five different types of cancer and congestive heart failure (CHF). Among those six populations combined, the study found that the mean survival was 29 days longer for hospice patients than for non-hospice patients.
  • Another study published in JACC Heart Fail. looked at decedents who had suffered at least two heart failure (HF) discharges from the hospital within six months. Those who enrolled in hospice had a longer median survival than those who did not.

Ultimately, these studies concluded that patients enrolled in hospice care face less invasive procedures, had lower rates of hospitalization, incurred lower healthcare costs during their last year or life, and were less like to die in the hospital.

While these studies demonstrate that end-of-life care is helpful and may extend their hospice life expectancy, they do not capture the true purpose and goal of hospice care, which is to provide the best possible quality of life for an individual – whatever time remains.

Quality, Not Quantity

Hospice care in South Jersey is truly not measured by the length of an individual’s life – it’s about quality of life.

Hospice care organizations provide personalized care, addressing your needs comprehensively and thoroughly. Every hospice care team works collaboratively with your personal physicians and specialists to “connect the dots” to ensure the very best quality of life and outcomes – addressing not just physical needs, but also emotional, social, and spiritual ones, as well.

Throughout the process, the hospice care team provides peace of mind to both you and your loved ones by listening to your wishes and expectations for care. Hospice never means “giving up” – rather, hospice means “hope” and “peace.”

As part of the hospice team, every nurse, social worker, and other professional is trained to offer genuine comfort and much-needed support to you and your family, easing the physical and emotional pain along with any other side effects that may accompany a terminal prognosis or debilitating disease.

Oftentimes, a hospice care team helps you, and those who care about you, look back and appreciate a life well lived, as well as help families address the emotional and spiritual issues of forgiveness, acceptance, and closure. Once a patient has passed, hospice can also provide bereavement counseling and other services to the family and loved ones left behind.

If hospice in South Jersey helps you enjoy the company of your family and friends a little longer by extending your hospice life expectancy, then that is a wonderful gift. But even if that does not occur, families can still rest assured that hospice helped make your loved one’s death a peaceful, dignified experience.

If you or a loved one has a life-limiting illness in South Jersey, or you have questions about hospice life expectancy, please contact Samaritan to learn how we can help. Call us 24/7 at (800) 229-8183.