When Can I Receive Hospice?

You may receive hospice care any time after the diagnosis of a life-limiting illness.  The earlier the referral, the more we can help.  The most frequent comment we receive from our families is: “You made such a difference. If only we’d known, we would have called you in much earlier.”  We ask doctors the question, “If given the normal course of the disease, would you be surprised to find the patient no longer alive in six months? “  If the doctor can answer that he or she would not be surprised, then the patient is a candidate for eligibility.  This does not mean if you are still alive in six months that you are denied services – it merely means that the question need be asked again.  Though our average duration of stay is 62 days, we have had patients for much longer.  If you are discharged because your condition has significantly improved, you can always qualify for hospice again at a later date.

Admitting Criteria for Hospice of Montezuma

  • The patient must choose hospice care.
  • The patient must have a condition for which life-prolonging therapy is no longer effective, appropriate or desired.
  • The patient’s doctor and the hospice medical director must certify that the patient is terminally ill with a life expectancy of 6 months or less.

When to Enter Hospice Care

Early referral provides the time for the hospice team, the patient and the patient’s family to develop a relationship of trust and comfort as they prepare for the days ahead.

Optimal pain management and symptom control is best accomplished when the hospice interdisciplinary team has time to fully understand the physical progress of the illness and patterns of pain and symptoms.  Pain management that is in place before acute pain can develop is the best way to manage pain and other symptoms.

Early referral to hospice care gives the patient and family the necessary support in place to do the essential emotional and practical work they need to do with one another before the patient is too ill for that to be possible.

Early admission also provides the best opportunity for an illness to be improved or controlled.  Many hospice patients can improve and even be discharged if their condition can be managed effectively.

Know When It’s Time to Call Hospice

Hundreds of times each year, patients and families say: “We wish we’d entered hospice sooner.” Patients and families can benefit most from hospice care when they seek support earlier rather than in a crisis.

Will your physician tell you when it’s time for hospice?

Often times your physician is the first to mention the possibility of hospice care. Not always, however. Some physicians hesitate to bring up hospice because they sincerely want to preserve hope for a cure. Frequently, they will continue to pursue treatment because they think that’s what the patient and family want. In other cases, such as with congestive heart failure or lung disease (COPD), it may be difficult for them to predict the rate of a patient’s decline. When a doctor does mention hospice care, he or she is simply presenting an option for comfort, which in many cases may actually lengthen life by increasing the quality of the time remaining. It is important that you and your doctor talk openly and share the same goals for maintaining quality of life.

What are some signs that our family could benefit from hospice?

Caring for yourself as your loved one’s caregiver is one of the most important things you can do. Hospice of Montezuma supports the family in conjunction with the patient. How do you know if you or your caregivers could benefit from hospice care?

  • You or your caregivers are physically and/or emotionally exhausted from caring for you or your loved one.
  • Your family is feeling isolated because of caregiving demands or the uncertainties you feel about your loved one’s future.
  • You or members of your family appear to need emotional support to cope with the sadness of the situation.
  • You are overwhelmed by the myriad of physical, financial, emotional and spiritual concerns arising because of the illness.

What are some signs that a person may be ready for hospice care?

  • An increase in pain, nausea, breathing distress or other symptoms
  • Repeated hospitalizations or trips to the emergency room
  • Failure to “bounce back” after medical set-backs occur
  • Decrease in function requiring assistance for walking, eating, bathing, dressing and/or going to the toilet
  • Decreasing alertness – patient is emotionally withdrawn, sleeping more or having increased difficulty with comprehension
  • Significantly decreased appetite and weight loss

Can we call Hospice even if we don’t think it’s “time”?

Absolutely! An important part of our mission is providing guidance to families about any  end-of-life care issue, whether or not they’re in our program. You don’t need a physician referral to call us for information. If it appears that hospice care would be beneficial, we will, with your permission, contact your doctor to discuss it.