"I wish I had called hospice sooner!" That is the sentiment often heard by Dan Mikus, Administrator of Angelic Hospice in Northfield, NJ. Hospice offers at least a six-month benefits, yet most people call during the last 20 days of an illness.
“We encourage people to become well-informed of hospice options," said Dan Mikus, administrator at Angelic Palliative & Hospice Care. "While it may be difficult, the conversation about hospice care should start long before it is needed. Having a plan for care in the event of a life-altering diagnosis will reduce the stress of investigating options when the patient or family is least prepared to cope.”
Even some healthcare providers are reluctant to bring up hospice care as an option because they do not want their patient to feel as though they have given up on their patient, explained Angelic Hospice Medical Director Michael Sperling, MD, an internist in Galloway Township.
"Many times, physicians will wait for the patient or family to ask about hospice. But the earlier this discussion happens the better it is for all. It is perfectly okay for the patient or caregiver to ask the physician if hospice is an option."
If you are considering hospice care for yourself, or plan to initiate this conversation with a parent, spouse or other loved-one here are some questions to guide you regarding the hospice care option.
- If you were in control of the last six months of your life, what would you want?
- If you were diagnosed with a terminal illness, would you want to seek a cure?
- If curative efforts fail, how would you like to proceed?
- Where do you want to spend your final days?
- If possible, you would prefer to get care at home?
- Would you want to be hospitalized?
- Who do you want to make your healthcare decisions if you are unable to do so?
There are many hospice myths that can be a deterrent for seeking care; the main one is that it is giving up hope for life. In fact, studies have shown that patients receiving hospice care, when started early in the diagnosis have an improved quality of life and are better able to enjoy time with family and friends than those not receiving care. Studies show that they also live on average one month longer than those not receiving hospice care.
Another misconception of hospice is that one must be nearing death to receive hospice care. In fact, you do not have to be actively dying, or have a Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) order to get hospice care. You also do not need to go to a facility to receive hospice care. Patients are cared for in their homes or in long-term, assisted living or other facilities, wherever they call home.
It should be noted that hospice care includes bereavement care and support of family members for 13 months after the passing of the patient. "Anticipatory grief starts at diagnosis. Hospice support will help both patient and family in the transition through the process," said Mikus. The hospice team includes the patient's physician, hospice nurse, social workers, spiritual and bereavement care coordinators, volunteer services and various therapies such as music and massage.
Hospice provides clinical, social, spiritual, emotional and physical care to those experiencing a life-altering or terminal diagnosis. Patients are cared for wherever they call home, in a private residence, nursing care facility, assisted living, or other facility.
Hospice is covered by medicare and many people who have hospice care for their loved ones are so thankful for the services they receive. Dan Mikus explains more on Living Well with Robin Stoloff.