Understanding Hospice Care and What’s Happening with Your Loved One

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Recently, I have been receiving some requests for people to be guest bloggers on my blog site. Lucille Rosetti sent me this article and it hit home because my first introduction to hospice was 29 years ago when I had my dad in home hospice for a few weeks while he was dying from end-stage cancer. I also have had my mom in hospice on two separate occasions for Congestive Heart Failure and she has “graduated” from hospice both times!

Having lost some of the people closest to her, Lucille understands what it’s like, and how it can be an emotional roller coaster that doesn’t always seem to make sense. She created TheBereaved.org as a means of sharing tools to help people through the grief process. Here is her post:

Hospice Blog

If you are unprepared, having a loved one enter hospice can be a bewildering experience. It normally comes along at a time when emotions are high, and energy is low, and if you’re trying to feel your way through, it’s easy to become overwhelmed. Here is important information for facing the hospice journey so you can feel more at ease with all that is happening.

Life’s Final Chapter

Hospice begins at the end of life and is designed to make that transition as comfortable as possible. As Oncology Nurse Advisor explains, hospice differs from palliative care in the sense palliative care is administered to both terminally ill and non-terminally ill patients, but palliative care is at the core of hospice. Treatment goals will be making your loved one as comfortable as possible, achieving the patient’s goals, and making the most of what time remains.

Planning and Preparation

People are often surprised at the relief found in making end-of-life arrangements. By dealing with practical matters, it can help both you and your loved one feel there is some grounding in what transpires, and it saves having to deal with those concerns later, during an even more challenging time. For instance, you should make sure you know where to find important legal documents, and if they don’t exist, have them completed while your loved one is able. Gather any important contact information, such as data related to insurance companies and financial institutions. If there are no existing funeral arrangements, start discussing options.

Money is often an uncomfortable subject, but it’s important to note the average funeral costs between $7,000 and $9,000, so consider investigating whether your loved one is eligible for burial insurance. This sort of insurance can also be used for other expenses relating to this time period, such as medical expenses.

How Long Does My Loved One Have?

For someone to enter hospice, a doctor must determine an illness is terminal. This also means the doctor assessed that six months or less of life remains, and both the patient and doctor feel the time is right to stop curative treatments. While there is a rule of thumb indicating six months of life, the average hospice stay in 2017 was about two months. However, as Forbes points out that there is no time limit on hospice, as long as a doctor certifies there is still a need.

 Who Are the Team Members?

There are several professionals who make up a typical hospice team, and sometimes there are volunteers who help with support. You can expect a palliative doctor, your loved one’s other doctors, a nurse, a social worker, and chaplain. A nutritionist can assess dietary concerns, and a pharmacist can provide consultation on medications. Because hospice embraces a philosophy of maintaining quality of life, your loved one might also receive appropriate therapies from professionals normally associated with rehabilitation. The team will be typically be coordinated through the social worker, who will also communicate with you and your loved one about care options and goals. Throughout hospice care, your loved one’s personal comfort and preferences will take priority over everything else.

Changes to Expect at the End

There will be certain indicators your loved one’s time is drawing close. Social withdrawal, changes in sleeping and eating habits, changes in bodily functions, and restlessness are typically seen. Sometimes, when there are just a few days or hours are left, your loved one might experience an increase in energy. Also, in that time frame, you might notice graying skin, bruising, and changes in breathing. While it might be upsetting for you, those changes are normal and rarely even noticed by the patient. Both you and your loved one can find comfort in being together during those last moments, and know you are allowed and encouraged to do so.

Throughout hospice, there is a support team in place to help. Communicate with your loved one as well as the hospice team and engage some preparations to help ground you. Knowing what is happening can be a comfort to both you and your loved one.

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