Tuesday, June 19, 2012

When is hospice right for me?

When is hospice right for me?
If someone were to tell you, “You have 6 months to live. I think it is time to call hospice,” what would you be thinking? Whether that person is your doctor, your family member, or your friend you will probably be thinking, “How do you know?” I know if someone told me this, I would be the first person to wonder beyond their statement and consider options to heal my disease. I would not want to give up. I would not let hospice shorten my time here on earth. Unfortunately, these assumptions go through too many minds and are in fact, false.
First of all, when that person tells you, “you have 6 months to live,” what they are really talking about is the disease, not you. Based on the scientific make-up of your diagnosis, if it progresses on its normal schedule then it will take 6 months for the disease to run its course. We all know that science doesn’t always prove “normal”. People live shorter than the 6 month diagnosis and people live longer than the 6 month diagnosis. It is completely normal for those thoughts to enter your mind, but remember hospice focuses on comfort care and improving the quality of life. By no means do we want you to give up! The only thing we want you to give up is to give up being in pain. If you have been diagnosed with a terminal illness, definitely give hospice a call to see if they can help you.
Next, healthcare professionals and peers alike can all understand, if not relate, to the shock and confusion that enters the minds of people when they hear those words, “6 months or less to live” or “hospice”. The one point we want to emphasize is that hospice does not mean give up or shortening life. Hospice is a choice that if selected includes you (or your loved one) in the plan of care every step of the way. It is an option which surrounds the patient and family with physical, emotional, social and spiritual support from a team of specialize healthcare professionals that can give care and services that others may not be able to provide. With no intentions of shortening or extending a life, Hospice is here to make those final days on earth as comfortable and peaceful as possible. We allow the disease to run its “normal” process intervening only with pain and symptom management, comfort care and support as much or little as requested and needed warranted by a physician.  
We have found that the average length of stay in hospice across the United States is 67.4 days from the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization in 2010, which is down several days on average from 2009 and 2008. Only 67.4 days, when our services are available for 180 (and sometimes more as warranted by a physician), is very unfortunate. We could be assisting people who are in pain much longer than given the opportunity. Now, we are very sure that these numbers reflect the scenario I painted at the beginning of this blog. While we understand the uncertainty, we hope that through education and healthcare professionals’ guidance we can get patients and families to accept that hospice is a good thing and is only here as a special healthcare option to enhance the quality of life of patient and family.
Now, how do you know if it is time for hospice besides the fact that the doctor said you are eligible and they have certified you hospice appropriate? There are three general criteria:
1.        When a patient has a terminal illness with a prognosis of 6 months or less
2.       Comfort care and symptom management are the primary focus
3.       Curative treatment is no longer the patient’s choice or option
When all of the above are true, it is time to call hospice. We are there to answer any questions you have and provide excellent care to respect the dignity and life of patients and families. Remember, it is always ok to graduate, seek curative treatment or the patient has taken a turn for the better and no longer needs hospice services, but should that not be the case we hope that when someone recommends us and says, “I think it is time to call hospice,” patients and families can see the benefits of pain and symptom management, comfort care and support and give us the privilege of caring for you.  
After deciding hospice is right for you (beyond your doctor just recommending it), understand want you to feel welcome, at peace and ready. We feel that no one should go through the dying process alone and when that time comes hospice is right here for you, facing the future together. Call hospice today to learn more about hospice services. Our specialized team will help you every step of the way, prepare you for thing you may not expect, and help relieve the unknowns and stresses associated with terminal illness. Hospice can help!  
Live well, laugh often, and love much,
Christine Juehne
Hospice of Southern Illinois
Community Education

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