A Guide for Caregivers Whose Loved One is Transitioning Into Hospice Care

 In Advice, End-of-Life Planning

Most caregivers who are transitioning a loved one into hospice care are doing so for the very first time. Not only do many caregivers lack experience with such a move, but rational thinking and decision-making are often clouded with emotion during such difficult times.

Below is a guide for caregivers whose loved ones are transitioning into hospice care.

Is your loved one eligible for hospice care?

Your loved one will be eligible for hospice care if they have a life expectancy of six months or less if the disease were to run its normal course of action. If they end up living longer than six months, they may be re-certified for hospice care by a doctor if their life expectancy remains at six months or less.

How do you speak to your loved one about hospice care?

Choose a private and relaxed time and space that is free from distractions to discuss your loved one’s condition and treatment. Look for an opening in the conversation, such as your loved one making a comment about just giving up, being sick of the hospital or wanting to be comfortable. These are all indicators that hospice care might be on their mind.

Your loved one may want to talk about hospice care but is too afraid to bring it up. Try to identify the cues that can start the conversation.

When should hospice care begin?

You do not need to wait for a doctor to suggest hospice care. Caregivers and their loved ones may request guidance for hospice care at any time. Once the request is made, the hospice team contacts your loved one’s doctor to determine if hospice care is an appropriate course of action.

It’s better to act sooner than later, as a study published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society found that many people wait too long to enter hospice care, resulting in prolonged suffering.

How do you decide where hospice care should take place?

Hospice care may be carried out at home, in a nursing or retirement home, an assisted living facility, skilled nursing facility or in a hospital or hospice facility. Sometimes home care is not an option as the hospice team may decide that inpatient care is necessary under the given circumstances.

Many hospice facilities provide overnight accommodations for family members who wish to be by their loved one’s side.

If inpatient care is elected, ask the following questions:

  • How will the facility work with your loved one’s current doctors?
  • What is their protocol for after-hours emergencies?
  • What personal care services are and are not provided?
  • Is the facility licensed and certified?
  • Is the staff accessible to caregivers who wish to discuss treatment for their loved one?
  • What is the patient-to-team ratio at the facility?
  • What are the rules regarding family visitation and overnight stays?

How can you pay for hospice care?

The financials of you or your loved one are likely the last thing on your mind at this time, and rightfully so. But the cost of hospice care must eventually be addressed.

Assuming your loved one has Medicare, most of their hospice costs will be taken care of save for some small copayments for medications and any respite care.

How can you adapt to your new role as a caregiver?

You may have been caring for your loved one for quite some time, but the transition to hospice care brings on a whole new set of challenges for a caregiver.

There is hospice care education available online where caregivers can receive guidance about their new role.

The transition to hospice care is a trying time for everyone involved. But with the right kind of guidance, you and your loved one can make the most of a difficult situation and ensure they live the highest possible quality of life right until the very end.

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