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Everything You Need To Know About Hospice Care

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Life is not easy, but neither is death. When a loved one is sick with a terminal illness, it can be devastating. While it is important to fight the disease, there comes a time when fighting is no longer an option and the best choice is to make the patient comfortable.

What is hospice care?

Hospice care simply means that the medical care given to a patient focuses on the symptoms of the disease and alleviating any associated pain. Hospice also assists in tending to the spiritual and emotional needs of the patient. The overall goal is to create the best quality of life possible for the patient.

Is hospice different than palliative care?

Although both hospice and palliative care focus on relieving pain and providing comfort, palliative care can start when the patient is first diagnosed. Hospice care starts when the patient has less than six months to live.

Does hospice stop all medications?

Hospice does not stop all medications or treatments. They simply put the emphasis on comfort. Some treatments, like chemotherapy, are uncomfortable for many patients so that type of treatment is ceased if the patient and their family wishes.

Is hospice care the same as euthanasia?

Hospice is not euthanasia. Euthanasia is assisted suicide to end suffering, which is illegal in the United States. Hospice simply eases suffering while granting the patient dignity during end-of-life care.

How long does a person live after being put on hospice care?

According to the National Institute on Aging, patients make the decision to transition to hospice care when their doctor determines they have six months or less to live. 

Is hospice care only offered in a hospital?

While many hospitals and long-term care facilities (nursing homes) offer inpatient hospice care, there are other options. Some religious organizations have facilities dedicated to hospice care. If your loved one prefers to be at home, you can also request for hospice care to be offered in their home. Home health care workers can visit the home, as needed, to assist with hospice care and the general care of your loved one.

What is respite care?

Caring for a loved one at home can be exhausting, both physically and emotionally. Respite care offers a break for spouses and other family members. It is short-term, temporary assistance from a home health aide that allows the primary caregiver to take a break. The break could be as simple as a shower every morning or a trip to the grocery store. The needs for respite care vary per family.

Deciding to transition to hospice care can be a difficult decision, but keeping your loved one's wishes in mind during end-of-life care is important.