We want our elderly loved one’s last days to be peaceful. Unfortunately, circumstances don’t always work out that way. But knowing a few things ahead will help.
One of the hardest things for family caregivers is recognizing that our loved one has entered their last-days phase. We get stuck in a mental cycle of medically “fixing and getting better” vs focusing on strategies for dying. Most importantly, we don’t sign up for Hospice soon enough.
Many of you already know about the benefits of Hospice. But last week I was reminded of its importance.
A client of mine who has dementia moved from his home to a memory care facility. Sadly, he wasn’t there very long before he fell and fractured his hip. Then began an all-too-common spiral. His confusion escalated. He became combative. He couldn’t remember why he was in the hospital or any safety precautions. Which meant no rehab. So, the family began looking for a higher level of care.
Soon after admitting my client, the new facility said they recommended Hospice. Regrettably, his wife became angry, hysterical, and refused. The facility nurse tried explaining that Hospice would give extra support and comfort to her husband. But she couldn’t hear it.
Like my client’s wife, many think of Hospice as impending death. They’re in denial because they don’t recognize their loved one has entered their last-days phase. And they cling to the hope of things staying the same or getting better.
The fact is, my client is more than a “fall risk”. He will fall. Not just maybe. Which means that without Hospice support, he could end his days going in-and-out of the hospital. Each trip to ER is traumatic and increases his confusion. Whereas Hospice comes to the patient.
Without Hospice it takes longer to get a pain assessment and new medication orders. Hospice support means quicker response and more comfort.
Like many, my client’s wife believed Hospice meant her husband would die within six months. While that is one guideline to qualify for Hospice, it’s not the only benchmark. It just means that a patient gets re-qualified for Hospice every 6 months.
She also believed that the goal of Hospice was to actively help her husband die. Nothing could be further from the truth. Pain-free comfort for the patient is the goal of Hospice. As is spiritual and emotional support for the family.
Hospice is a benefit of Medicare so it’s free for the patient. It covers incontinence supplies and medical equipment to make life easier. And you have the choice of any hospice company. Consult your care team to find out who they like working with.
There are no downsides to signing up for Hospice. If your loved one’s care home recommends it, please agree.
My client’s wife finally saw the benefits and has also agreed.