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When is Hospice Appropriate?

It’s never too early to become your own healthcare advocate and learn about the types of care options available to you or your loved one living with serious illness. Hospice care is a valuable care option to consider and it’s important to know when hospice may be appropriate.

Days vs. Weeks and Months

Many people believe hospice care is appropriate only for the last few days of life when, in reality, it’s appropriate for the last weeks and months, or more, of life. In fact, many family members say they wish they called hospice sooner instead of waiting until their loved one only had a few days to live.

These family members always convey that the expert, comprehensive care provided important comfort and dignity for their loved one and essential support for them as the caregiver.

Explore Your Options; Ask Your Doctor About Hospice

Knowing about this invaluable care option empowers you to make better decisions about what you or your loved one want at the end of life. Most importantly, you do not need to wait for your primary care physician or specialist to bring up hospice care during an appointment. You can explore this topic sooner, ask your healthcare provider questions, and have the information and answers at your fingertips for when it’s the right time to choose hospice care.

When Hospice Care is Appropriate

Hospice care is appropriate for anyone living with a serious illness who has been diagnosed with six months or less to live. Hospice is the right option for a patient if they choose comfort care instead of seeking curative treatments.

Hospice care is for anyone living with cancer, heart disease, liver disease, lung disease, dementia, Alzheimer’s, ALS, and more.

For Those You Care About

Choosing hospice is never easy. If you’re reading this and wondering if your loved one is a good fit for hospice, it probably means they’re already eligible for this specialized comfort care. Some other signs that hospice care is the right choice for your loved one include:

  • Frequent hospitalizations or ER visits.
  • Increased or uncontrolled pain.
  • Progressive weight loss.
  • Difficulty swallowing.
  • Inability to perform activities of daily living.

If you are seeing these signs and wondering if hospice is appropriate, the time may be now.

For Primary Care Physicians

As a primary care physician, it’s important to know when hospice care makes sense for your patients. Although initiating end-of-life discussions can be difficult for both healthcare providers and your patients, they can ultimately result in grateful families who cherish the opportunity to provide the most beneficial comfort care for their loved one.

For your patients who may be appropriate for hospice care, the general criteria includes:

  • Frequent hospitalizations and/or emergency department visits over the last six months.
  • Declining functional status as determined by: dependence in 3 of 6 Activities of Daily Living (ADLs).
  • Patient chooses comfort care rather than curative treatment.
  • Would you be surprised if the patient survived beyond 6 months?

Each illness also has specific criteria. For example, someone living with cancer may have weight loss, metastatic disease, and progression from an earlier stage despite therapy. A patient with dementia may have infections and difficulty speaking, sitting up, or holding their head up. A patient with heart disease may have angina at rest despite medical treatment and symptoms of cardiac heart failure despite diuretics and vasodilators. Click here for more information about when your loved one or patient is appropriate for hospice care according to their specific disease.

Still Not Sure if Hospice is Appropriate?

We encourage you to call our Access Center 24/7 at (800) 229-8183 to speak to one of our nurses.

Samaritan is a member of the National Partnership for Healthcare and Hospice Innovation, a network of not-for-profit hospice and palliative providers across the country. If you know someone outside of our service area who is living with advanced illness and can benefit from hospice or palliative care, please call 1 (844)-GET-NPHI (844-438-6744) for a referral to a not-for-profit provider in your area.