Many caregivers express fear and anxiety about calling hospice. They believe that doing so signals they have “given up” on their parent, but that’s just not true.
Beginning hospice care is more about shifting focus. It’s not just about controlling your parent’s pain (also known as palliative care), although it does include that. Hospice care also offers bereavement counseling for family members, respite for stressed caregivers, and specialized knowledge about what patients need and want in their last months.
Hospice workers often bring in specialized equipment that can aid your parent. They can offer the services of religious leaders, and fulfill more specific and personal requests that your parent may have. Keep in mind that hospice care can be incorporated into the care your parent receives now, without having to move them.
A doctor can sometimes alert you when your elder has only six months to live, and if you are relying on Medicaid you will need them to certify this in order to access hospice services, in most states. Depending on your doctor, you may need to start this conversation. Many doctors are reluctant to address end-of-life plans with patients out of fear of upsetting or alienating them.
Signs It’s Time
There are physical signs you can bring up with your parent’s doctor that may help with the decision to consider hospice care, such as:
- Significant weight loss
- Frequent hospitalizations
- Serious or multiple falls
- Frequent infections
- The failure of one or more organs
- Advanced Alzheimer’s or dementia
- An aggressive cancer
- Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
- Advanced heart disease.
There are also mental and emotional signs to be on the lookout for, such as:
- Sudden difficulty with very simple daily tasks
- Emotional withdrawal could be a sign they are struggling to come to terms with their condition
- Loss of hope, increased anxiety and depression, or fear of death.
One or a combination of these symptoms or illnesses could be a sign that your parent is ready for hospice care.
Is it Too Early to Consider Hospice?
Hospice staff are best equipped to help your parent return to a peaceful and comfortable state of mind, so it’s never too early to consider hospice care. If your parent remains in hospice longer than expected, that’s no problem. Your doctor will continue to approve further hospice care after the initial six months covered by Medicaid. It’s also important to remember that your parent can leave hospice if they wish to, or if their condition changes for the better.
Hospice can prevent the last months of your parent’s life from becoming a time of turmoil and struggle. Instead, the final stage of life can be meaningful and fulfilling for your parent and your whole family. If you have concerns about hospice or are struggling with the decision, reach out to us at Aging Life Network. Our team of professional care managers can provide you with the guidance and support you need.