Research, studies and surveys confirm the physical, emotional and financial benefits of hospice care. And hospice is most beneficial, experts agree, when it’s provided for months rather than weeks or days.
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Yet statistics show that half of all hospice patients nationwide get three weeks of care before they die. A third receive care for fewer than seven days.
Don’t Make the End of Life a Crisis
This crisis-management approach to end-of-life care is diametrically opposed to the hospice ideals: building trusting relationships, controlling pain and other symptoms, helping loved ones find emotional closure, facilitating peaceful dying experiences and providing grief support for loved ones.
By definition, hospice is intended to serve those who are in the last six months of their lives. And there is reason to believe hospice can actually prolong life. A study published in the Journal of Pain and Symptom Management shows that hospice patients live an average of 29 days longer than those who do not choose hospice.
Take the Stigma Out of the Word “Hospice”
As a doctor, you can begin the end-of-life conversation early in your patient’s serious progressive illness. You can take the stigma out of the word hospice by discussing how hospice can change the quality of life.
Compare the ability to stay at home, surrounded by the comforts of family and the familiar, to the likelihood of months of EMTs, EDs and ICUs. The more time the hospice team has to support the patient and family, the better the quality of life for the whole family.
When physical pain is under control, there is time to address psychological and emotional pain. Families embrace this important stage of life, making connections, repairing relationships, rediscovering simple pleasures and finding closure.
Quality of Life is Your Gift to Your Patient
Sometimes, hospice services give patients more time. Always, hospice services make the most of the time the patient has. Quality of life is a gift you can give your patients. But it takes communication and planning. It takes more than seven days, or even three weeks. Quality hospice care takes time.