By Aditi Sethi-Brown, MD
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 can be beneficial.
1. Making Life Meaningful
Talking about death in our culture is taboo. The conversation about death and dying can be uncomfortable and emotional for all involved. While physicians often say they don’t want to take away hope by discussing the end of life, all the parties involved usually realize the direction an illness is taking as someone is declining. We have an opportunity to make the final days, weeks or months of a person’s life a meaningful and positive time to experience the grief of eventually letting go and a time to celebrate their life.
2. A Positive Experience
All people with a terminal prognosis of six months or less are eligible for hospice care. A physician must be willing to state that if the disease or condition a person is dealing with continues its current course, it is reasonable to think that this person will die within the next six months. Often patients, families and doctors feel that hospice is just available for the management of symptoms and the end-stage dying process. 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 allow for more quality time for an individual to live fully and spend time with loved ones. For example, if someone wants to travel or have quality time with their grandchildren but is having difficulty managing symptoms associated with end-stage disease or aggressive treatments, then these treatments 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. Choosing Hospice is a personal choice that can provide improved quality of life. In some cases, patients enrolled in hospice live longer than those patients with similar disease who are not enrolled in hospice.
Aditi Sethi-Brown, MD, is Medical Director, CarePartners Solace Center.