Calling Hospice Early Can Make All The Difference
The sentiment we hear over and over again in hospice is “I wish we had known about hospice sooner.” Despite the fact that hospice is at least a six-month benefit, the median length of service is less than 20 days nationwide. Just as troubling are recent studies indicating that number is on the decline. Half of all patients are referred to hospice in the last 15 days of life, and 10% enroll on their last day of life.
Families accessing hospice support too late was addressed in a recent report from the Dartmouth Institute for Health Care Policy and Clinical Practice, “Trends in Cancer Care at the End of Life: A Dartmouth Atlas of Health Care Brief”. Comparing data from 2010 to the period 2003–7, the authors found a “substantial” 12.2% increase in the number of cancer patients who enrolled in hospice in the last month of life. However, for patients who enrolled within three days of death, the increase was more than 30%.
The report summarized this finding, “… a growing proportion of patients begin receiving hospice service in the last three days of life, a time period often too short to provide patients the full benefit of hospice care.” It also noted that “High-intensity end-of-life care, by contrast [to hospice], is associated with poor quality of life and of death, as well as higher costs, and, in some cases, reduced survival.”
The hospice philosophy is that living full and meaningful days is important at every stage of life’s journey.
Hospice helps better manage the patient’s pain and symptoms in the earlier days of their illness allowing them to live a better quality of life throughout their remaining days.
Hospice benefits for patients include:
- A care team approach that includes nurses, certified nursing assistants, social workers, spiritual counselors, and volunteers to meet individual needs of each patient.
- Medication, equipment and supplies related to the disease are provided.
- Expert support to help with pain and symptom management.
- Opportunity to maintain control of their life and their own decisions.
- Reduced hospital and emergency room visits.
Hospice benefits for families include:
- Education regarding their loved one’s disease and what to expect in the months ahead.
- 24-hour access to nurses, certified nursing assistants and a full team of experts.
- Spiritual and emotional support to help cope with the difficulties of this transition.
- Time to develop a relationship with the bereavement counselors as well as at least 13 months of bereavement support after the passing of the loved one.
Obtaining information on the benefits of hospice earlier can help in order to make informed decisions about end-of-life treatment and care later.
For additional information about eligibility and benefits, please contact Halcyon Hospice at 855-328-1700 or visit our website at www.ExcellenceInHospice.com.