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Sharp Health News

When is the right time for hospice?

Feb. 10, 2021

Caregiver works with elderly ill woman wearing mask because of COVID-19.
Realizing that a sick loved one may be nearing the end of life is challenging — emotionally, mentally, spiritually and physically. Caregivers might experience heightened stress and fatigue that comes with caring for a dying person, whether a spouse, parent, child or anyone with a terminal illness.

Sometimes providing the best care possible to keep loved ones 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 people 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 the person’s 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 loved one’s illness
Navigating the emotional and medical complexities of end-of-life care can be stressful, but doctors can help families decide whether hospice is right for them.

Hospice may be a path toward providing comprehensive, compassionate care so that the moments in life for loved ones are as comfortable and meaningful as possible.

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