Hospice care - Why earlier is better

I recently received one of those heartbreaking, late-night calls.

A daughter, whose father was in a community hospital, wanted to arrange hospice care for her father.

He was in the hospital. He wanted to die at home.

My heart broke for her.

Her father had been extremely ill for many months. His care team knew he was at the end stage of life. Yet, no one had approached this man or his family to discuss planning for his last days.

His family long knew that he wanted to die at home. Yet, there was no plan to keep him in home, and out of the hospital in his final days.

What I wish for this man and his family, is that someone on his care team would have encouraged him – and them – to consider hospice when it could most benefit him and his family.

It’s never easy to talk about end-of-life care.

Also, there is often misunderstanding about what hospice is and when it can provide the most benefit to patients and families.

People often say to me, “I thought it was too early to ask about hospice care.”

According to the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization, 35 percent of patients are on hospice less than a week before they die.

Often, even healthcare providers don’t understand the importance of linking patients with hospice early.

If you or a loved one is facing a terminal illness, talk with your healthcare provider.

It’s never too early to learn about hospice.

We might tell you, “Dad doesn’t need hospice yet, but let’s check back with you in a month. We’d then check back with you monthly to see if your father was ready for hospice care.

When it is time, the AtlantiCare Hospice Team will meet with you and/or your loved ones. We’ll learn about your physical, emotional, social, and medical needs.

Together, we will plan for meeting those needs so that you can live well in those final days.

The longer a person is on hospice, the more effectively we can help to ensure he or she is comfortable and facing the end of life on his or her terms.

We can’t prevent the heartache of losing someone. We can make those final months, weeks and days less stressful and more meaningful.

Debra Meredith MS, RN, CHPN is Director, AtlantiCare Hospice.