From a Family...

"Our time with Hospice of Northwest Ohio gave us the gift of peace for our dying mother."

Deciding When It's Time for Hospice Care

Hundreds of times each year, patients and families tell us: "We wish we’d entered your hospice program sooner." It is a common misconception that hospice care is only for the last few days or weeks of life when, in fact, patients and families can benefit most when they have hospice for the final months of life.

We have developed a simple quiz that can help you determine if the time might be right to call hospice based on the diagnosis and symptoms you or a loved one may be experiencing.

In addition, here are some questions that may help you determine if it's time for hospice care:

What types of diseases are helped the most by hospice care?
Hospice is beneficial for anyone, of any age, with any life-limiting disease. Though many patients have cancer, Hospice of Northwest Ohio also has great expertise in providing comfort and symptom control for patients in the final stages of lung, heart and kidney disease, Alzheimer's and other types of dementias, stroke, neuromuscular diseases, AIDS and many other illnesses. Hospice care can also be beneficial for people who are in a severe state of decline due to frailty or other disorders associated with aging.

When is someone "eligible" for hospice care?
Medicare, Medicaid and most insurance plans provide coverage for hospice care when physicians predict a patient has six months, or less, to live and curative treatment is no longer being sought. Please understand that the six-month prognosis is merely a guideline. Hospice re-evaluates patients every 60 days and, as long as their conditions continue to decline, they are re-certified for hospice coverage for as long as they live.

Won’t our doctors tell us when it’s time for hospice care?
Not always. Many physicians hesitate to broach the subject of hospice because they don’t want to destroy your hope. Frequently, they will continue to pursue treatment because they assume that’s what you want. In other cases, such as congestive heart failure or COPD, it is difficult for them to predict the rate of a patient’s decline. When a doctor does mention hospice, even casually, you should discuss it immediately. In fact, he or she may actually be relieved if you bring up the subject. It is important that you understand the benefits of curative vs. comfort care, and that you and your doctor share the same goals for maintaining quality of life.

What are some signs that a person may be ready for hospice care?
  • An increase in pain, nausea, breathing distress or other symptoms;
  • Repeated hospitalizations or trips to the ER;
  • Failure to "bounce back" after medical set-backs occur;
  • Increasing assistance needed for walking, eating, bathing, dressing and/or going to the toilet;
  • Decreasing alertness – patient is emotionally withdrawn, sleeping more or having increased difficulty with comprehension.
What are some signs that our family could benefit from hospice care?
  • You are physically and/or emotionally exhausted from caring for your loved one;
  • Your family is feeling isolated because of care-giving demands or the uncertainties you feel about your loved one’s future;
  • The patient or members of your family appear to need emotional support to cope with the impending death;
  • You are overwhelmed by the myriad of physical, financial, emotional and spiritual concerns arising because of the illness.

Can a patient stop having hospice care?
Yes. Patients always have the right to choose what type of care they receive. If they and their physicians decide to try another approach, we will assist them in making that transition.

Can we call Hospice of Northwest Ohio even if we don’t think it’s "time"?
Absolutely. An important part of our mission is providing guidance to families about any end-of-life care issue, whether or not they’re on our program. You don’t need a physician referral to call us for information. If it appears that hospice care would be beneficial, we will – with your permission – contact your doctor to discuss it.