Research supports and confirms the physical, emotional and financial benefits of hospice care, and that hospice is most beneficial when it’s provided for months rather than weeks or days. However, statistics show that half of all hospice patients nationwide receive merely three weeks of care before they die, and a third of them only receive care for less than a week.
Focus on Not Making the End of Life a Crisis
A crisis-management approach to end-of-life care directly contradicts the hospice ideals of building trusting relationships, controlling pain and other symptoms, helping loved ones find emotional closure, facilitating peaceful dying experiences and providing grief support for loved ones. Hospice, by definition, is intended to provide care to those who are in the last six months of their lives. And research shows that there is reason to believe hospice can in fact prolong life. In a study published in 2007 in the Journal of Pain and Symptom Management the data showed that hospice patients lived an average of 29 days longer than those who did not choose hospice, (Connor, et al., 2007).
Removing the Stigma from “Hospice”
Physicians can begin the end-of-life conversation early in their patients’ serious and progressive illness. The stigma can be removed from the work “hospice” through the discussion of how hospice can significantly impact a patient’s quality of life.
A comparison can be made between the option to stay at home, surrounded by the comforts of family and the familiar, to the likelihood of frequent trips to, and significant time spent in EDs and ICUs. If the hospice team has more time to support the patient and family, the quality of life for the whole family will benefit.
When physical pain is controlled, it allows for an opportunity to address psychological and emotional pain. Families have the opportunity to embrace this important stage of life, while making connections, repairing relationships, rediscovering simple positive aspects, and finding closure.
Give the Gift of Quality of Life to Your Patients
Sometimes, hospice services give patients more time. Moreover, hospice services always make the most of the time the patient has. Quality of life is a gift that you can provide to your patients, but it takes effective communication and adequate planning. Furthermore, quality hospice care takes time.
Connor, S. R., Pyenson, B., Fitch, K., Spence, C., & Iwasaki, K. (2007). Comparing hospice and nonhospice patient survival among patients who die within a three-year window. Journal of Pain and Symptom Management, 33 (3), 238-46. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jpainsymman.2006.10.010