When Is It Time To Consider Palliative Services and Hospice?

Getting started is sometimes the hardest part. We want to make it easier by guiding you through some basic steps.

The best time to learn about palliative services and hospice is before you need it.

At any stage of an advanced illness, it’s appropriate to discuss options, including hospice and palliative services. The decision belongs to you, your personal physician, and your family.

Hospice care will benefit you most when referrals are made as early as possible, allowing adequate time for symptom and pain management and the development of trusting relationships between you, your family, and your JourneyCare team. If you are not appropriate for hospice, you may benefit from Palliative Services. The basic difference is palliative services is comfort care (pain and symptom management for patients with serious illness). Hospice is intensive palliative care for patients with a prognosis of less than six months and no curative treatment available.

We encourage you to begin conversations with your physician and family members now regarding your end-of-life wishes, including advance healthcare planning and designation of a healthcare representative or power of attorney.

Understandably, most people are uncomfortable with the idea of stopping all efforts to cure their disease. It is courageous to fight terminal illness, and it is equally courageous to know when to discontinue treatment that is no longer helpful. Our staff members are highly sensitive to these concerns and always available to discuss these and other issues with patients and families.

A Message for Family Members and Other Loved Ones

Family members and other loved ones are often a critical part of hospice care. At times, a patient who may benefit from hospice care may not be aware such treatment is available or may not be capable of contacting hospice. That’s when family members or other loved ones contact hospice.

If your loved one is considering hospice care or is already under hospice care, we are here for you, too, and welcome your questions and insights. Family members and other loved ones play a vital role in caregiving. Many times, after being trained by a hospice nurse, they will provide much of the hands-on care.

A referral to hospice is appropriate when:

  • A patient has a terminal illness with a life expectancy of six months or less.
  • Comfort care and symptom management become the primary focus.
  • Curative treatment is no longer the patient’s choice or option.

Making a Referral

To make a referral or to inquire about services, call JourneyCare and a Care Coordinator will help you begin the referral process. Making this important phone call is the next step.

Referrals to hospice may be made by anyone, including but not limited to:

  • Physicians
  • Discharge Planners
  • Social Workers
  • Patients
  • Family Members
  • Nursing Homes
  • Friends
  • Clergy

Early Intervention May Improve Quality of Life

Too often referrals for hospice care are not made until the patient has uncontrolled symptoms or is near death. Although hospice care can do much to assist and provide care at this time, the patient and family can benefit much more from hospice services if referred earlier.

Many symptoms (i.e. pain) can be prevented from becoming severe. Symptoms that might otherwise require  hospitalization or an emergency room visit can be successfully managed by the hospice team in the patient’s home. The patient’s and family’s quality of life can be greatly enhanced by early intervention.

Once a referral has been made, a JourneyCare nurse assesses the patient’s physical and emotional readiness for services, obtains a full medical history, and determines what medication and medical equipment is needed. All discussions are conducted in a highly sensitive manner. Once the assessment is performed, eligibility is determined by the Medical Director.

A care team is then assigned to the patient and family and a visit schedule and plan of care is established. The nurse makes arrangements for medication and medical equipment to be delivered, and continues to monitor patient care.

The nurse also teaches the caregiver and family members how to care for the patient. Members of the care team continually interact with the family to identify what is needed to offer the highest quality of care. The care team visits as often as needed.

For more information on palliative services and hospice, review the material on this website or call JourneyCare at 224-770-2489.

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