Hospice: The Sooner the Better
Hospice offers patients and their families individualized expert medical care, pain management, and emotional and spiritual support at the end of life. But all too often, hospice is considered too late—if at all. In fact, 40 percent of Medicare beneficiaries nationwide enrolled in hospice received care for 14 days or less in 20181—despite evidence of the benefits of early enrollment in hospice care.
Although we’re proud that the state of Delaware ranks second in the country for the percentage of Medicare beneficiaries receiving hospice care at their time of death,2 the truth is that anyone at any age with a life expectancy of six months or less can gain tremendous quality-of-life benefits from hospice care.
We hear it from our families over and over—they wish they’d chosen hospice sooner.
The evidence-backed benefits of hospice care begin long before the final days.
The hospice interdisciplinary team is ideally suited to provide care and support to patients and family caregivers throughout the last months of life, not just the last days. However, researchers from the Yale School of Medicine suggest that individuals who access hospice care often do so too late to fully benefit from the advantages hospice care provides.3
There are many ways hospice care can improve the quality of life for you and your loved ones early on. Research has shown that hospice care:
- Increases patient satisfaction.4
- Improves pain control.4
- Decreases days spent in the hospital.4
- And reduces visits to the emergency department.5
In addition, hospice can lower the stress and anxiety levels of family caregivers by providing practical hands-on assistance, community resources, and relevant education.
Choosing hospice doesn’t mean “giving up.”
Choosing hospice care is not “giving up” on life, but maximizing the quality of life left.
In fact, research has shown that individuals enrolled in hospice care often live longer. According to an article published in the Journal of Pain and Symptom Management, Medicare patients enrolled in hospice on average lived 29 days longer than those who were not enrolled.6
The decision to enroll in hospice care is never irreversible. Individuals can always discontinue hospice care if their medical condition improves or new treatment becomes available.
When you choose hospice help earlier, you’re choosing to embrace life. By reducing pain, managing symptoms, and easing family caregiver responsibilities, hospice frees your family to focus on your time together instead of the disease.
Don’t let the myths stand in your way.
Hospice care is frequently misunderstood and leaves many patients and families wishing that they knew about its benefits sooner. Hospice care isn’t expensive—and its benefits are priceless. Medicare and most private insurance plans usually cover hospice costs, but as a nonprofit, Delaware Hospice never turns anyone away for an inability to pay.
Don’t let the myths stand in the way of maximizing your final months with your loved one. When you’re ready to focus on comfort instead of a cure, consider hospice care. The sooner the better.
Delaware Hospice believes that all people should understand their options and the support hospice can provide. If you have questions about hospice care, give us a call at 800.838.9800.
1. National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization. NHPCO Facts and Figures. (August 2020): 12. https://www.nhpco.org/wp-content/uploads/NHPCO-Facts-Figures-2020-edition.pdf.
2. In 2018, 59.4% of Medicare decedents in Delaware were enrolled in hospice and received one day or more of care at their time of death, compared to 50.7% nationwide. (Ibid. p. 7-8.)
3. Thomas M., MD, Ling Han, MD, PhD, Linda Leo-Summers, MPH, Evelyne A. Gahbauer, MD, MPH, and Heather G. Allore, PhD. “Distressing Symptoms, Disability, and Hospice Services at the End of Life: Prospective Cohort Study.” Journal of the American Geriatrics Society 66, no. 1 (January 2018): 41-47. https://doi.org/10.1111/jgs.15041
4. Eduard E Vasilevskis, Louis Fogg, and E Wesley Ely. “Exploring the Association of Hospice Care on Patient Experience and Outcomes of Care.” BMJ Supportive & Palliative Care 9, no. e13 (March 2019). http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmjspcare-2015-001001
5. Alexander K. Smith, Ellen McCarthy, Ellen Weber, Irena Stijacic Cenzer, John Boscardin, Jonathan Fisher, and Kenneth Covinsky. “Half of Older Americans Seen in Emergency Department in Last Month of Life; Most Admitted to Hospital, and Many Die There.” Health Affairs 31, no. 6 (June 2012): 1277-1285. https://doi.org/10.1377/hlthaff.2011.0922
6. Stephen R. Connor, PhD, Bruce Pyenson, FSA, MAAA, Kathryn Fitch, RN, MA, MEd, Carol Spence, RN, MS, and Kosuke Iwasaki, FIAJ, MAAA. “Comparing Hospice and Nonhospice Patient Survival Among Patients Who Die Within a Three-Year Window.” Journal of Pain and Symptom Management 33, no. 3 (March 2007): 238-246. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jpainsymman.2006.10.010.