Discussing Hospice with a Loved One
A time historically reserved for barbecues, pool parties and longed-for vacations, summer is now officially in full swing. Unfortunately, the fun is oftentimes on hold for families who have a loved one facing a life-limiting illness. Yet, festivities don’t need to be paused. Why not? If the affected loved one was open to hospice, the family can still make the most of life. But where does one even begin discussing hospice with a loved one?
How to Start Discussing Hospice
Most of us know someone—neighbor, co-worker, friend or in-law—who relied on hospice to help care for a loved one. With the presence of hospice staff to better meet the needs of the patient, the benefits are priceless. But the crucial conversation that needs to take place long before hospice arrives is why many patients who could have comfort and help simply do not. It’s a talk that many are not ready emotionally to have with a dying parent, spouse, sibling or other family member.
Discussing Hospice Tips
Start the conversation early. Open and honest communication is the best way to start. As the proverb goes, “forewarned is forearmed,” and the sooner you know all vital information, such as life expectancy and available options, the better.
Many times when loved ones hear the devastating news about their disease and life expectancy, they are unable to fully grasp and understand the information. This fact was validated in a study published in the British Journal of Cancer. Then a group at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine showed that there are patients who might firmly believe their disease is curable even though their physician said otherwise. There are many instances when a doctor says one thing but the patient hears another. You need to be aware and know the full story.
Nevertheless, once you have a full understanding and knowledge base, you can introduce the topic of hospice and gauge your loved one’s thoughts on the subject. Maybe they are not medically or emotionally ready for hospice now, but at least you would understand and recognize what their thoughts and feelings on the subject are when the time comes.
Choose the right location for the discussion. Pick a location that is comfortable. It can be at home sitting in comfy chairs, a spacious sofa or at the kitchen table. Or maybe your family member enjoys the outdoors, and you can opt for a park setting. The choice should also be quiet and free from disturbances. Minimize distractions by turning off cell phones, and avoiding the television and radio.
Be educated about the benefits of hospice. Many people have misinformation when it comes to hospice. (Learn the truth about hospice here.) Loved ones might fear that their quality of life will be lessened if hospice is called in, and that simply is not true. Hospice can help patients make the most of life.
Share with loved ones that hospice staff will make visits to their home. Additionally, with an interdisciplinary team, everyone works together to coordinate care for their specific disease. The hospice team helps patients ease and manage pain and symptoms. Patients should expect an increase in comfort and thus an improved quality of life.
If you need help, just make a call. Sometimes people are scared to have the conversation and don’t want the situation to get beyond their control. Having someone else talk about hospice with a loved one might be a better solution. At Chapters Health System and its affiliates—Good Shepherd Hospice, HPH Hospice and LifePath Hospice—we have people experienced in discussing hospice with loved ones and their families.
- What to say when the individual is fearful
- How to answer any and all questions
- How to explain what patients can expect at the various stages of the end-of-life journey
Granted the hospice conversation is not an easy one to have. But once the bridge is crossed, the discussion takes place and hospice is agreed upon, your loved one will experience the benefits of hospice and all it can offer. You will be glad you had the conversation.
At Chapters Health System, every day is devoted to educating our patients and keeping them in the place they call home. We are dedicated to ensuring that patients, young and old alike, and their families are able to make educated decisions about important healthcare matters. For more information, please call our helpful Chapters Health team at 1.866.204.8611 or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
About Phoebe Ochman
Phoebe Ochman, Director of Corporate Communications for Chapters Health System, manages all content and communications for the not-for-profit organization.