Part 2 of a Series: When is it Time to Call Hospice?

It is one of the most difficult decisions a family can make: deciding that it is time to call hospice to care for an ailing loved one.

But it also can be one of the best decisions because it allows your loved one to be as comfortable as possible, enjoying friends and family, as their life journey comes to an end.

Because it’s a difficult issue to talk about – and even harder decision to make – many families wait until the end is very close before calling hospice. These late decisions can make it harder for a hospice team to achieve its goals of controlling symptoms, such as pain and breathing difficulties, and helping with emotional closure.

During my 20 years as the owner/operator of Country Home Assisted Living in Parker, Colorado, I have noticed that it is usually best to call in hospice when medical treatments or interventions no longer work or when the side effects outweigh the benefits.

But not every person is the same. For example, it can be fairly easy to make that decision when a terminal illness is involved. It’s not so easy to make that decision when an ailing loved one tells you she just doesn’t feel good.

In this second part of my three-part series, I pull from my experiences at Country Home Assisted Living to come up with some indicators to help you know if it is time to call hospice. They include:

  • Frequent infections.
  • Frequent falls caused by disorientation or loss of mobility.
  • Repeat trips to a hospital’s emergency room.
  • Unrelieved pain that becomes more irritating as it never seems to go away.
  • Sudden or progressive decline in physical functioning, such as walking or getting out of bed.
  • Loss of interest in food and difficulty swallowing, which can lead to weight loss and dehydration.
  • Shortness of breath and need for oxygen 24/7.

So please don’t wait to call a hospice representative to at least come and talk to your family. Include your ailing loved one in the discussion. When you make them part of the process, they can become more accepting of this stage of life. They will know it’s a time to say their goodbyes, reconnect with loved ones while remembering fond experiences together, and make their peace with death.

Don’t think of hospice as giving up. See it for the value that it provides: improving the quality of the patient’s life by being free of pain while surrounded by family and friends in the comfort of “home.”

This series continues next month with a blog titled: The Realities of Hospice