What is Hospice?

Mar 13, 2024 | Estate Planning

Having a spouse who was in hospice care at the time of his death does not make me an expert on the subject.  My experience does provide a perspective that may not be obvious or known to someone who hasn’t dealt with hospice.  It all starts when your loved one receives an end-stage  diagnosis. It is this diagnosis that determines eligibility for hospice care.

Hospice care is a specialized form of health care designed for patients who are in the last phases of an incurable disease.  It focuses on comfort, dignity, and quality of life for patients that are nearing the end of their journey.

The idea of hospice care as we now know it was introduced in 1963 by a British physician, Dame Cicely Saunders, during a talk at Yale University using before and after pictures of terminally ill cancer patients who received specialized care for the dying. (understandhospice.org/brief-history-hospice/.) The impact on the patients before and after receiving the specialized end of life care opened the discussion in the US for providing the same type of care here for terminally ill patients.

It not only applies to stage IV cancer, it also includes patients with end-stage chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), congestive heart failure (CHF), advanced dementia, failure to thrive diagnoses, strokes, and other medical issues that provide a terminal diagnosis.

Entering hospice does not mean the patient, or their family, has given up on life.  It is as much about how you want to live your remaining days as it is about how you want to die.  It prioritizes the best quality of life for the patient, relieving symptoms and providing comfort.  There can be immense pain during the dying process, however the aim of hospice is to maintain and control the pain as well as other symptoms.

To be eligible for hospice, the patient must receive a diagnosis that there is a likelihood of living six months or less.  However there are patients that live longer than six month including former President Jimmy Carter who has been in hospice care for 12 months.

Hospice is not limited to a specific place.  It can be provided at home, in a nursing facility, or a hospice center.  The hospice focus shifts from curative treatment plans to symptom management.  The aim of hospice is to manage pain and other symptoms effectively, ensuring peaceful and dignified transition.

Hospice care is about enhancing the quality of life during a challenging time and it provides support for patients and their families.  Creating an estate plan can also assist your loved ones and your treatment providers with how you want to be treated during this period if you are unable to communicate your wishes.

My husband had a good death with the help of the hospice because he left this life under his own terms.  At Duncan Legal, PC we understand the importance of tailoring our services to meet the individual needs of our clients.  For personalized assistance, call Duncan Legal to schedule a consultation.  Your peace of mind is our priority and we look forward to assisting you on your estate planning journey.

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