woman with cancer hugging daughter

Sooner Is Better for Cancer Patients Seeking Hospice Care

Hospice Can Start Sooner, and Have a Greater Impact, Than Most People Think

Hospice care is a service for those who have elected to cease treatment for a terminal illness. Alongside a doctor, a patient decides that at this point in their healthcare journey, it is better to treat symptoms, such as pain, to ensure the best quality of life possible for their remaining time.

Hospice is also about taking care of the whole person. When a patient chooses hospice care they receive many more benefits than pain management, including a 24/7 hospice nurse case manager; a chaplain for spiritual counseling and comfort; bathing assistance, and much more.

However, most patients don’t experience the full benefits of hospice. More than 35% of hospice patients receive hospice for a week or less. These short stays significantly reduce the amount of time that a patient could receive care to enhance their lives.

Hospice services can begin as soon as a doctor certifies that the patient has six months or less to live, if the illness were to run its natural course. Medicare.gov explains that patients can even receive hospice care for longer than six months if their terminal illness is recertified.

The sooner a patient elects hospice, the sooner they can experience this impactful healthcare service that provides them comfort and improves their quality of life, among other benefits:

  • Care for physical symptoms
  • Spiritual and emotional support
  • Support for families
  • The gift of quality time

Care for a Cancer Patients’ Physical Symptoms

When a cancer patient decides to cease treatment for a life-limiting cancer diagnosis, it is likely that they will begin to experience cancer-related symptoms, including elevated levels of pain. The sooner the patient receives comfort care through hospice, the sooner they get relief from these symptoms.

Comfort care can include symptom management and pain management. Hospice also provides access to medical equipment a patient may need to enjoy the highest possible quality of life.

Spiritual and Emotional Support

When a patient elects hospice care, they immediately receive support from a chaplain, social workers, and volunteers who provide support during this emotional time.

The earlier a patient elects hospice, the sooner they will be able to experience the power of spiritual and emotional support, tailored to their own religious views and mental health needs.

Support for Families

It isn’t only the patient who requires support when facing a disease like terminal cancer. Family members of the patient also worry about their loved one’s condition and have many questions, thoughts, and feelings about their loved one’s condition. They may even begin the grieving process long before their loved one passes away.

Hospice provides support for family members, including bereavement resources and assistance with how to handle this phase of life. As soon as the hospice care benefit begins, family members can receive much-needed support, too.

The Gift of Quality Time and Presence

Although no patient knows how much time they have to live, hospice makes that time as valuable as possible by providing care that improves their quality of life. Hospice care at home allows a patient to focus on being present with family and friends and doing what they love, as opposed to dealing with physical symptoms.

Trying to treat a terminal illness can lead to distress and unnecessary hospital visits. Instead, hospice care at home provides the relief that patients need, managed by a hospice care team. Patients will no longer have to spend their time with emergency room visits and confusion over the next steps to take.

What the Research Says About Patients’ Experiences With Hospice

Research supports the power of hospice care. A study from BMC Palliative Care, a leading medical journal, reveals that the hospice benefit is powerful and effective for the whole person, not just their symptoms. This study reports that hospice patients express these feelings when receiving this care:

  • Relief, gratitude, and contentment
  • Less distress about family members’ needs
  • Dignity

While trying to manage a life-limiting illness on their own, experiencing these feelings may be challenging. However, when a patient decides that they no longer wish to receive treatment, they can receive a far more peaceful and relieving form of treatment for their physical, emotional, and spiritual needs through hospice.

Choose Hospice When the Time Is Right

Ultimately, the decision to pursue hospice is a personal decision made by the patient along with their doctor. However, remember that hospice isn’t only for patients who are “at the end.” It is also not a sign that they’ve given up.

To the contrary, hospice care at home is a choice that puts the patient in control of the reality of their illness and how they wish to live their lives going forward. Patients and their families can have a far richer experience with hospice care than most people imagine, especially if they opt for care as early as possible.

For those who qualify and feel ready to elect hospice care, there are good reasons to consider this service sooner than later. Continue reading about hospice near you and other misconceptions about this important healthcare option.

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Wesley Koenig, RN

Meet Wesley Koenig, RN from our Columbia location. Wesley, we are so thankful for your dedication to your clients and Phoenix Home Care and Hospice!

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