Choosing Hospice Care

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At the turn of the 20th century, most deaths in the United States occurred at home. By the 1960s, over 70% of deaths occurred in an institutional setting, reflecting an evolution of medical technology. With the birth of the hospice movement in the 1970s, dying patients had the opportunity to have both death at home and aggressive symptom control at the end of life. Although there has been a slow decline in the proportion of deaths that occur in the hospital over the past 2 decades, the overwhelming majority of people state that they would prefer to die at home. However, recent findings suggest that most people will die in an institutional setting.

When faced with a terminal illness, hospice care can sometimes be a complex subject to discuss with the family. It is sometimes looked at negatively like the person is “giving up on life.” What is often not understood is how hospice care does not hasten death, nor does it prolong life, but rather the person is given care to increase the quality of their remaining days.

You may enter a program if your doctor states that you have a terminal illness and that death can be expected in 6 months or less. You can stay in hospice beyond that time if your doctor and the team decide you still have only a short time to live.

Hospice care has different levels, but the most common one occurs at the person’s home. The hospice team may include a doctor, nurse, social worker, counselor, chaplain (if you’re religious), home health aide, and trained volunteers. They work together to meet your physical, emotional, and spiritual needs.

Hospice is for family members, too. It offers counseling and often help with practical things such as cleaning the house and shopping.

Also often overlooked is that hospice isn’t always a permanent choice. For example, if your kidneys are failing, you might choose the hospice program rather than continuing with dialysis. But you can still change your mind, stop hospice care, and start back on treatments. Other people may get better unexpectedly and quit the service with the option of returning later.

You may also get care at hospice centers, hospitals, nursing homes, and other long-term care places. It is essential that the person discusses their choices with those close to them, or, if a person cannot make those choices, loved ones communicate with each other when determining which path to take. To discuss hospice or other care with Delaware Court Healthcare Center, contact us at (740) 369-6400 or online.

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