Despite your medical team’s hard work and your family’s support, sometimes treatment stops working, and cancer remission is no longer possible. When this happens, it may be time to consider end-of-life care instead. That’s where hospice care comes in.
Hospice care for cancer patients helps you live comfortably and pain-free in your home for as long as possible. It can significantly increase your quality of life during the time that’s left. It can also provide much-needed support for yourself and your family during this difficult time.
How Long Can a Cancer Patient Live in Hospice?
Many people decide to wait until the final few days or weeks to enroll in hospice care. But Medicare states that a patient can receive ongoing care if a physician believes they have six months or less to live.
Research shows that patients who use hospice services for longer experience a much higher quality of life and greater comfort in their final months. It can also reduce the stress and responsibility placed on your entire family, so you can make the most of your remaining time together.
Understanding Hospice Care
Hospice care focuses on symptom management and emotional support when a patient is expected to live for six months or less. In hospice, the focus of care is on the patient and the entire family.
This end-of-life care involves a team of specially trained professionals and caregivers who care for the “whole person,” including your physical, emotional, social, and spiritual needs.
A hospice care team consists of:
- Home care/hospice aides
- Social workers
- Bereavement counselors
Hospice care can take place in a hospital or a dedicated hospice facility. But inpatient hospice is only necessary for those who require around-the-clock care. Most hospice care takes place at home. It provides additional support and respite for primary family caregivers. In-home care allows you to remain in the comfort of your own home until the end.
In most cases, Medicare, Medicaid, and private insurance companies cover hospice care for cancer patients. Anyone with a terminal diagnosis qualifies for hospice, but your doctor must first approve the care.
When Hospice Care is Needed
No one wants to think about losing someone they love. For that reason, many families delay discussions about end-of-life care.
If you are asking yourself when to call hospice, there’s a good chance your loved one may already be eligible to receive this added layer of uniquely specialized care and support.
Even if your loved one is not currently eligible for hospice care, gathering information about when you should call hospice before a crisis hits will give you time to understand the options available and determine the best fit for your family.
Consider these questions in relation to yourself or your loved one:
- Have you been told there are no more viable treatment options for your disease?
- Have you decided to forego treatment that might cure your disease?
- Are the potential benefits of treatment no longer worth the side effects you experience?
- Do you have multiple health conditions to manage, and is that management becoming more difficult?
- Have you visited the emergency room twice or more in the past three months?
- Have you lost weight?
- Have you fallen?
If the answer to any of these questions is “yes,” it’s time for a thoughtful discussion about the quality of your life, including how the support of a hospice team of caregivers can help you and your family.
Far too many people wait until they are in the midst of a healthcare crisis before thinking about what options are available or what care they or their loved ones would want. By waiting too long to learn about possible options, like hospice care, people often spend difficult days in the hospital or the emergency room, and opportunities to be with loved ones at home are lost.
How Hospice Care Can Benefit Cancer Patients
Hospice care has many benefits for cancer patients and their families.
Hospice care can help with:
- Physical Comfort. While hospice care can’t treat or cure the cancer itself, it will help with unpleasant symptoms and side effects. The aim is to relieve pain and discomfort as much as possible, letting you enjoy the last stage of life in comfort.
- Mental and Emotional Relief. Hospice isn’t only medical assistance. Hospice care can also help connect you with resources to process the emotional, social, and spiritual aspects of dying.
- Maximized Quality of Life. In-home care increases comfort, independence, and quality of life toward the end. It also reduces the chance of regular rehospitalization from your illness, so you can enjoy your final days at home with loved ones.
- Increased Sense of Dignity. No matter what stage of cancer you’re in, you deserve to maintain your sense of dignity. At Providence Home Care, our core values include treating every person with dignity, compassion, and respect.
- Better Customized Care. With hospice, all aspects of your care are coordinated in one personalized care plan. This plan is tailored toward your needs and wishes.
- Greater Convenience for Family. Hospice can also reduce the pressure placed on your family and loved ones. It offers them the needed support, guidance, and respite.
What to Expect from Hospice Care
Hospice care ensures you have everything you need to live as comfortably and independently as possible during the end of life.
With hospice care, you can expect:
- Pain and Medication Management. Medical professionals will provide you with drugs and medical supplies needed to relieve pain and discomfort.
- Emotional and Spiritual Support. Hospice care will offer you the support you need to help process everything happening. You can discuss death with a trained professional and/or chaplain and plan accordingly.
- Respect, Honor, and Understanding. Hospice professionals and caregivers receive special training to work with those reaching end-of-life. They know how to treat patients with the respect and dignity they deserve.
- Family Support. Hospice care is for the patient and the entire family unit. Family members may receive care training, guidance, emotional support, and bereavement counseling.
- Documentation of Patient Care and Condition. The treatment team documents all care to coordinate all aspects of care and reevaluate as needed.
- Caregiver Collaboration. A hospice care plan focuses on the needs and wishes of the patient. It will take into consideration the needs of the entire family. Collaboration between all parties involved in the care is vital.
How Families Can Make the Decision to Choose Hospice Care
Deciding to enroll in hospice care for yourself or a loved one is a complex decision. It may also be a difficult conversation to have with family members.
Many people are under the misconception that hospice means you’re giving up. But this isn’t the case at all. You’re reevaluating your current needs. By enrolling in hospice care, you’re making the active decision to enhance your remaining time as much as possible.
Factors to consider when deciding to enroll in hospice care include:
- Taking Initiative as the Patient. As an individual with cancer, it’s up to you to express your wishes to loved ones. You may feel reluctant to discuss hospice care with your family, but they must understand that your needs come first.
- Educate Yourself and Loved Ones. Before approaching the topic of hospice, do your research and know exactly what it entails and what benefits it could provide. You can then communicate this with your loved ones and dispel any apprehensions they might have.
- Speaking with Permission. When having a difficult conversation with a loved one, ask permission to approach the subject, so it doesn’t take them by surprise.
- Listening Attentively and Exercising Care. All conversations need to be two-way. Hear what the other person is saying and be empathetic to their concerns.
- Discussing Goals. Consider your own goals and your family’s goals for hospice care. Is reducing pain your biggest concern? Do you need assistance with daily tasks? Do you need emotional and spiritual support for you and your family?
- Speaking with Current Doctors. Including your current doctors in hospice conversations and plans is vital. They can provide insights into the type of care you may need in the coming months.
Finding and Choosing the Right Hospice Care Provider
So now you’ve decided to enroll in hospice care. The next step is choosing the best home care provider for your needs.
Steps for choosing the best hospice care provider:
- Ask Trusted or Professional Connections. Ask your doctor, family members, and friends if they have any home care providers that they recommend.
- Research Local Businesses Online. You can also look online for hospice care providers in your local area. Make sure to check for good reviews.
- Ask Potential Caregivers Good Questions. Once you’ve found a provider you’re interested in, schedule an interview and prepare questions in advance. Questions to ask are: Which services do you offer — medical, home care, emotional, or spiritual? Who will provide the care? Do your care professionals have experience working with cancer patients? How will my family be involved in the care?
- Check Financial Coverage. Make sure that Medicare, Medicaid, or your private insurance provider covers the hospice care provider you’re considering.
- Review All Information with Family. Ensure that all family members involved in your care are informed and involved in decision-making.
- Decide on the Best Fit. Review the information and think about which provider would be the best fit for your needs. It’s also essential to trust your gut regarding in-home care. Do you feel comfortable with the caregivers?
Hospice Care At Providence
Providence Home Care offers hospice care for cancer patients in the Oklahoma City area. Our goal is to help you or your loved one live comfortably, pain-free, and independently for as long as possible.
Contact Providence today to learn more about our hospice care for cancer patients.