The decision to choose hospice care is never an easy one. But for those facing a terminal illness – and for their families and loved ones – thinking about hospice earlier on can be beneficial.
1 – Making Life Meaningful
“We have a certain taboo in our culture about talking about death,” said Michael D. Parmer, DO, CPE, FAAHPM, System Medical Director – Post Acute and Palliative Care Services, CarePartners. “This is an uncomfortable decision and is very emotional for all involved.”
While physicians often say they don’t want to take away hope by discussing the end of life, Dr. Parmer added, all the parties involved usually realize the direction the [illness] is taking. “We have the opportunity to make the final days, weeks or months that a person lives a meaningful and positive time to negotiate the grief [and] loss, and to celebrate the person’s life.”
2 – A Positive Experience
All people with a terminal prognosis of six months or less are eligible for hospice care. “This means that a physician must be willing to state that if the disease or condition a patient is dealing with continues its current course, it is reasonable to think that this person will die within the next six months,” said Dr. Parmer.
“Often patients, families and doctors feel that hospice is just available for the management of symptoms and the end-stage dying process,” he said. “In reality, by engaging with hospice at an earlier time in the end-stage trajectory of the disease, the hospice team is able to provide for good symptom management and support that allows a person to stay engaged with family and friends, and design a positive end-of-life experience.”
3 – Providing Quality of Life
The hospice team’s ability to help manage symptoms and treatments can provide more quality time to spend with loved ones.
“An example would be a patient who wants to travel or have quality time with their grandchildren, but is having difficulty managing symptoms associated with the end-stage disease or aggressive treatments,” said Dr. Parmer. These symptoms and treatments, he added, may not be adding to their length of life, but instead may be decreasing their quality of life.
Hospice is able to help patients and families navigate these difficult times with support through physical, psychosocial and spiritual needs, and the expertise of the interdisciplinary team. “It is a personal choice that can provide for improved quality of life, and in many cases, patients enrolled in hospice live longer than those patients with similar disease that are not enrolled in hospice,” said Dr. Parmer.
Michael D. Parmer, DO, CPE, FAAHPM, is the System Medical Director – Post Acute and Palliative Care Services, CarePartners.