If celebrating life, creating memories and enjoying the company of family and friends sounds somewhat contradictory to what you imagine for hospice patients, it’s really not.
This is the basis for hospice care and what inspires Redwood Area Hospital physicians, volunteers and nurses like Kristen Anderson, RN, CHPN, hospice care coordinator.
“There’s a misconception that choosing hospice means you’re giving up on life,” says Anderson. “Those of us in the field see first-hand how hospice can improve the quality of and in many cases prolong the lives of people receiving care.”
A study sponsored by the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization reported terminally ill patients who chose hospice care lived an average of 29 days longer than similar patients who did not choose hospice care.*
Many patients and families don’t call upon hospice for help until the final weeks or days of life. But a growing number of individuals and physicians are seeing the value of introducing hospice care sooner rather than later.
“We believe the earlier these discussions take place, the better,” Anderson says.
A recent study by Dana-Farber Cancer Institute researchers suggests terminally ill cancer patients who have an early talk with their physician about care at the end-of-life are less likely to receive aggressive therapy?and more likely to enter hospice care?than patients who delay such discussion until the days and weeks before death.**
Anderson encourages families to have a frank, open, honest discussion with their physician and offers the following insights:
- Let your doctor know it’s okay to have this conversation with you. Doctors have a hard time with this too.
- Stand up for your beliefs, values and what’s important to your family. Know when enough is enough.
- Don’t feel obligated to make your doctors happy by undergoing treatment. Be open about your beliefs on quality of life vs. quantity of life.
“You don’t have to be actively dying to benefit from hospice either,” says Anderson. “We’ve seen patients with pneumonia and COPD rally and rebound after the first week of hospice care.”
Anderson encourages families to be proactive. Even if patients feel okay and don’t think they need hospice, it can turn into crisis-mode and sadly patients may die before their loved ones have a chance to say good-bye. Anderson recommends contacting hospice or discussing hospice care with a physician when you find yourself thinking that this may be your loved one’s last Christmas, birthday, or other significant event. Hospice care is available when a person’s life expectancy is six months or less.
Whether the prognosis is months or days, Redwood Area Hospital Hospice care is available and appropriate for all ages and illnesses. By choosing to have hospice involved earlier rather than later, patients and families can optimize their quality of life, share in important decision-making and delivery of care, improve communication throughout the process and preserve the dignity of loved ones.
“We should equally enhance the lives of those entering our world and leaving it,” Anderson says. “Hospice is about making every moment count and partnering with a team of caregivers uniquely trained to help you do just that.”
* Source: “A Communication Strategy and Brochure for Relatives of Patients Dying in the ICU,” The New England Journal of Medicine; February 1, 2007
** Source: Journal of Clinical Oncology, November 13, 2012