Health Careers Journal

When it Comes to Hospice Care, Timing is Everything

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Hospice care is a service provided for patients nearing the end of their lives. Its goal is to help people feel the most comfortable during the final weeks of their lives, and to provide support services for families and caregivers during that time. As described on the Elder Care page of the Department of Health and Human Service’s web site, the decision to utilize hospice care is highly personal for both the patient and the family, and there are many factors to consider, from physical and emotional concerns, to financial and even spiritual matters.

A Study on Hospice Care

WebMD describes a recent study done on hospice care and how it’s been used over the last several years. The study included information about duration of hospice use and how it was used in conjunction with visits to the ICU. The study concluded that the length of time hospice services are in use has declined drastically over the last several years. With the shorter time in hospice care, the positive and beneficial impact on the patients and their families is minimal.

The study also showed that between 2000 and 2009 fewer people died in the hospital, but the use of the ICU during the same time period increased in the last month of life. The use of hospice also increased during the same time period. Although the use of hospice care increased overall, 28.4% of the hospice care used was for no more than three days. 40% of those cases followed directly after a stay in an ICU.

Reasons For the Decline

There seem to be many contributing factors in play here. One of them is that people are only considering hospice care as a last resort, and this usually happens too late. Doctors are not paid to sit down and discuss these services with their patients, so they don’t often do so unless they are approached about it directly. When families and patients are better informed about hospice and learn about it further in advance, they tend to have more time to acquire the services faster and benefit more from the psycho-social support that is offered to them.

Another reason that people are only receiving hospice care for short amounts of time might be because of a sudden decline in their health. They might lack the time to prepare for hospice services. Additionally, the fact that it is much harder to get hospice care than it is to stay at a hospital or in the ICU may also play a role in patients and families putting off its use. Filling out 25 pages of forms is much harder than being admitted to the ICU.

There are things that can be done to make it easier for people to get the hospice care they need when it will benefit them the most. Some of these things include informing patients about hospice services earlier, and making it easier to acquire them. This can have a positive and far reaching impact on the patients and their families.


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