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When is it time for hospice?


Hospice is a special type of medical care that can help ensure the final months of life are as good as they can be. Hospice is not about giving up. Hospice is about giving you comfort, control, dignity and quality of life.

Hospice care focuses on all aspects of a person's life and well-being: Physical, social, emotional and spiritual. Hospice cares for people of all ages and illnesses and provides support for the caregivers. The Hospice team includes the patient's physician, the hospice doctor, nurses, a social worker, aides, minister, therapists and trained volunteers.

The Hospice team develops a care plan tailored to the patient's individual needs and provides all the necessary medications, therapies, medical supplies and equipment that is related to the terminal illness. Hospice patients can be in their homes, a nursing home or other residence. Hospice team members make regular visits, and nurses are on-call 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Bereavement support is provided for 15 months.

So how do you know when it's time for hospice care? When to request hospice care is a personal decision, but it's important to understand that at a certain point, doing "everything possible" no longer might be helping you. Aggressive treatments might give you another month of life, but make you feel too ill to enjoy that time. Hospice care is not for you if you are benefiting from treatments intended to cure your illness.

It may be time for hospice if:

* You have an incurable illness.

* You have a prognosis of six months or less if the illness continues on its current course.

* You no longer want to continue curative treatments, tests and hospitalizations.

* You desire a plan of care that focuses on managing pain and other symptoms, emotional and spiritual support.

"The perception that 'nothing more can be done' has often had a devastating effect on both patients and families. But even though the disease may be incurable, much more can be done to ease the pain and suffering of the patient, and at the same time, involve family members in the patient's care." - The National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization, http://www.nhpco.org.

Sue Noll, RN-BC, CHPN, is supervisor of Hospice and Palliative Care at Hays Medical Center, which serves Ellis, Rooks, Rush and Russell counties. hospice@haysmed.com