Realizing that a sick loved one may be nearing the end of life can be a challenging time — emotionally, mentally and physically. If you’re the caregiver, you might experience heightened stress and fatigue that comes with tending to a dying patient, whether a spouse, parent, child or anyone with a terminal illness.
Sometimes providing the best care possible to keep your loved one comfortable and pain-free during the last days, months or years of life may mean seeking support from a larger care team through hospice.
Focused on care and comfort — and not necessarily cure — hospice includes doctors, nurses, aides, social workers, spiritual counselors and therapists who work together to help minimize pain and symptoms so that patients can live comfortably as life draws to a close.
So when is the right time to seek hospice care? The answers will vary on a case-by-case basis, so it is a good idea to discuss this question with your doctor and health care team.
Dr. Margaret Elizondo, a hospice and palliative care expert affiliated with Sharp Grossmont Hospital, provides some guidance when making this important decision. Some common indicators that a person may be suitable for hospice include:
- Increase in symptoms that do not respond well to traditional treatment
- Continual medical setbacks
- Decrease in appetite or weight loss
- Frequent trips to the emergency room or hospital to manage symptoms
It’s also important to consider how the caregiver and family are feeling. A hospice team can help support families dealing with the day-to-day expectations of taking care of a loved one. Caregivers may want to consider hospice if they are experiencing any of the following:
- Increase in stress and burden due to declining health of a loved one
- Physical and/or emotional exhaustion from caring for a loved one
- Feeling isolated due to the demands or uncertainties of caregiving
- Feeling overwhelmed with the financial, emotional or spiritual concerns surrounding the patient’s illness
Navigating the emotional and medical complexities of end-of-life care can be stressful, but you don’t have to deal with it on your own. Talk with your doctor about whether hospice is right for you and your family.
Hospice may be a path toward providing comprehensive, compassionate care so that the moments in life for your loved one are as comfortable and meaningful as possible.