Nearly all patients are able to receive hospice care as soon as their physician believes that they most likely have six months or less to live, due to a terminal prognosis.
Hospice is not a crisis service for just the last few days of life. It is a program designed to care for the patient and family during the last months of life. An earlier hospice admission allows both patient and family to receive the full benefit of hospice services. Additionally, when pain and other symptoms are effectively controlled, people not only feel better, they have the potential to live longer.
According to the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission, “The Commission has previously expressed concern about very short hospice stays. More than one-quarter of hospice decedents enroll in hospice services only in the last week of life, a length of stay which is commonly thought to be of less benefit to patients than enrolling somewhat earlier.” (MEDPAC Report, March 2016, Chap. 11)
The benefits of choosing hospice earlier in the disease progression include:
For the Patient
Effective medication, pain, and symptom management resulting in less discomfort and fewer emergency hospitalizations;
- Earlier intervention may decrease stress levels, and have a positive impact on the quality of life;
- A reduction in unnecessary and frequent re-admission to the hospital/ER visits;
- A decrease in the stress of traveling back and forth to the hospital or physician offices;
- Help with focusing on developing personal goals before death;
- Preparation and coordination of advanced directives;
- Full emotional, psychological, and spiritual support;
For the Patient and Family
- Control of an overwhelming situation;
- Achieving peace with the pending death;
- Providing an opportunity for closure and saying good-bye with everyone together;
- Becoming knowledgeable and comfortable with the dying process;
- Receiving expert assistance and time to prepare for the funeral and financial matters;
- Savings on expenses for medication, equipment, and supplies related to the terminal condition.
For the Family
- Positive emotions about the opportunity to improve the quality of life of their loved one;
- Participating in the care of the patient, and feeling good about the contribution to the loved one’s final months, weeks, days;
- Developing an earlier relationship with the hospice bereavement coordinator;
- Ability to observe the loved one in a more comfortable state during a difficult time.
Earlier admission to hospice allows patients and families to build longer relationships and improve overall care for the body, mind and spirit. In our satisfaction surveys, 60% of patients and caregivers said they would have liked to have been referred to hospice earlier.