How hospice helps
When someone is dying, family members and other loved ones are suddenly thrust into the role of caregiver, often with little preparation or knowledge of what to expect. Hospice team members support the caregiver by providing information and answering questions.
Caregivers also are given practical tips, advice, and strategies to help them manage the considerable burden of caregiving. Many caregivers report much of their worry was relieved simply by knowing they were never alone, that they could call hospice at any time with a question, concern, or for help.
Hospice care is a special kind of care that focuses on the quality of life for people and their caregivers who are experiencing an advanced, life-limiting illness. Hospice care provides compassionate care for people in the last phases of incurable disease so that they may live as fully and comfortably as possible.
The hospice philosophy accepts death as the final stage of life: it affirms life, but does not try to hasten or postpone death. Hospice care treats the person and symptoms of the disease, rather than treating the disease itself. A team of professionals work together to manage symptoms so that a person’s last days may be spent with dignity and quality, surrounded by their loved ones. Hospice care is also family-centered – it includes the patient and the family in making decisions.
Hospice care is used when a disease, such as advanced cancer, gets to the point when treatment can no longer cure or control it. In general, hospice care should be used when a person is expected to live about 6 months or less if the illness runs its usual course. People with advanced cancer should have a discussion with their family members and doctor to decide together when hospice care should begin.
Studies show hospice care often is not started soon enough. Sometimes the doctor, patient, or family member will resist hospice because they think it means “giving up” or that there’s no hope. It’s important to know that you can leave hospice and go into active cancer treatment any time you want. But the hope that hospice brings is a quality life, making the best of each day during the last stages of advanced illness.
Some doctors don’t bring up hospice, so the patient or family member might decide to start the conversation. If your treatment isn’t working anymore and you’ve run out of treatment options, you might want to ask your doctor or a member of your cancer care team about hospice.