When it’s time for hospice care, earlier may be better

By The Health News Team | February 6, 2024
Woman pushing older woman outside in a wheelchair

Hospice is more than end-of-life support. It's about providing comfort and compassion while ensuring each patient receives the best care in their final days.

But when is the right time to consider hospice care for a loved one? The answer is sooner than you might think.

Patients qualify for hospice when they have an anticipated life expectancy of six months or less. But according to the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization, half of all hospice patients in the United States are enrolled for just 17 days or less.

“We recommend reaching out to hospice early,” says Douglas Corbin, a nurse with Sharp HospiceCare. “We’re able to provide that extra nurturing and care that folks often don’t have, which can help improve their quality of life and possibly, extend it.”

Improving quality of life

Hospice care takes a holistic approach, with a team of nurses, home-health aides, social workers, spiritual counselors and others who work closely with each patient, their families and their personal physicians. 

“The team comes in and provides support for a patient in addition to the care they’re already receiving,” Corbin says. “That can include managing their medications, making sure they get the treatments they need, or just providing some extra TLC.”

Extra time also allows for a hospice team to focus on what matters most to a person, whether that be prioritizing hobbies, faith or time with family. By managing symptoms effectively and focusing on patient well-being, individuals often experience a longer, more fulfilling life and can avoid unnecessary emergency room visits and hospital stays.

Support for families

Another key benefit of using hospice care sooner is the support offered to families and caregivers. 

While patients can receive care at hospice homes, a skilled nursing facility or a hospital, they most often choose to stay in the comfort of their own homes. Many providers, like Sharp HospiceCare, offer aides, known as "homemakers," and volunteers who are available to assist with errands and housekeeping along with providing emotional support.

“It’s coordinated and comprehensive care that focuses on the total person and their family,” says Suzi Johnson, vice president of Sharp Hospice and Palliative Care. “That can include delivery of medications and equipment, integrative therapies, grief counseling for family members and more.”

Covered by insurance

One of the significant advantages of hospice care is that, when eligible, it comes at no cost to patients

Medicare, Medi-Cal and private insurance generally cover the cost. This allows families to focus on their loved ones’ well-being and the time they have left, without the added stress of accumulating medical bills.

Learn more about Sharp HospiceCare; get the latest health and wellness news, trends and patient stories from Sharp Health News; and subscribe to our weekly newsletter by clicking the "Sign up" link below.


Get the best of Sharp Health News in your inbox

Our weekly email brings you the latest health tips, recipes and stories.