When to Have the Talk About Hospice

Hospice care, as defined by the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization is “quality, compassionate care for people facing a life-limiting illness or injury…involves a team-oriented approach to expert medical care, pain management, and emotional and spiritual support expressly tailored to the patient’s needs and wishes”.

The earlier you have the conversation about bringing in hospice care, the better. When given a prognosis that doesn’t clearly indicate a specific survival time (such as Congestive Heart Failure or advanced cancer) but is a life-limiting illness, your loved one may think they have longer to live than they actually do and not be ready to admit that hospice care is an option. Respecting this uneasiness doesn’t mean you shouldn’t discuss it. And one of the benefits is that hospice helps families to deal with the grief and anger and denial through the counsel of social workers and chaplains.

How to actually have the conversation includes the following:

Be understanding of your family members’ feelings. Fear and grief are very personal and each person expresses them differently. Patience is needed by you so that they can become ready to talk about hospice care.

Include family members in the conversation, and respect the wishes of your relative if they say they don’t want specific family members present. Those who have been caring for the relative in the home should be part of the conversation from the beginning.

Don’t expect a decision immediately. There may be questions and a request to think things over. Allow your relative the time to adjust to the idea. As their illness progresses, you can introduce the hospice option again.

Convey to your loved one that you truly want them to have the best care possible. You want to bring in hospice care to help ease their pain and offer additional support and guidance through this last phase of their life.

It’s not an easy conversation to have, but if you approach it with patience and kindness, it can help make the experience of bringing in hospice care more comfortable for you and for your loved one.

-Helen Justice

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