When Should You Consider Hospice? 5 Important Signs

By: Renown Wellness Team

May 28, 2024

Older lady in bed hugging caregiver or loved one

Deciding on hospice care for a loved one is a deeply personal and challenging decision, balancing their wishes and medical realities. Rebecca Edwards, DNP, from Renown Hospice Care, explains the signs indicating when it might be time for hospice and offers guidance on navigating this decision with compassion and clarity.

Understanding Hospice Care 

Before exploring the decision-making process, it’s crucial to have a clear understanding of what hospice means. Hospice care represents a shift in how we approach living with a terminal condition, emphasizing comfort, dignity, and quality of life above all else. When there is no longer a pathway to a cure, side effects of treatment outweigh the benefits, or someone is simply tired of frequent hospital visits, then it may be time for hospice. Hospice care is mainly done in the home, where most people wish to be. It's a compassionate, team approach to care that focuses on meeting the physical, emotional, and spiritual needs, supporting their families, and honoring individual preferences.

5 Critical Signs to Be Aware Of

  1. Decline in Overall Health: When a loved one's health continues to decline despite ongoing medical interventions, this may be a sign that these treatments are no longer effective. 
  2. Increasing Pain and Symptoms: When managing symptoms such as pain, nausea, fatigue or shortness of breath becomes increasingly challenging, hospice can offer specialized support and expertise in symptom management. 
  3. Frequent Hospitalizations: Repeated hospitalizations or emergency room visits can signify that the disease has progressed to a point where managing symptoms and providing comfort at home or in a hospice setting is a more appropriate approach. 
  4. Difficulty with Daily Activities: If your loved one is experiencing difficult with activity of daily living such as dressing, bathing, or mobility, it may be a sign that they require additional support and assistance.
  5. Prognosis of Six to 12 Months: Hospice Care is typically recommended for patients with a prognosis of about one year or less if the disease follows its normal course. However, it’s important to remember that every individual is unique and prognosis can vary. 


Talking to Your Loved One

Initiating a conversation about hospice care is essential to ensure that your loved one’s wishes and needs are respected and honored. Approach the discussion with sensitivity, empathy and openness. Allow your loved one to express their concerns, fears and desires. Focus on listening and understanding their perspective and provide reassurance that hospice care is about enhancing comfort, dignity and quality of life. The hospice team can help with these conversations anytime for a consultative, informational visit.

Benefits of Hospice Care 

  • 24/7 Access To Robust Care Team: Hospice provides access to an integrated team that includes physicians, nurses, social workers and volunteers who work together to provide holistic care. Someone is on-call and ready to help every day. 
  • Free Medication Delivery: The hospice physicians and APRNs manage all medications, so no office visits are required for patients to get what they need. All medications are delivered at any time of the day or night, free of charge.
  • Support for Caregivers: Hospice offers support and resources for caregivers, like family members, including education and counseling to help them cope with demands of caregiving and prevent burnout. Hospice can also provide short periods of respite care where patients are cared for in a Renown facility to allow caregivers to rest and reenergize themselves.
  • Personalized Care Plans: Hospice care is tailored to meet the unique needs and preferences of each patient and family, promoting individualized care and dignity.
  • Regular Home Visits: Hospice programs offer in-home care, allowing patients to receive specialized services and support in the comfort of their own surroundings. Nurses and other members of the hospice team visit the patient’s home on a scheduled basis to assess their condition, manage symptoms and medications and provide medical care.
  • Spiritual Care and Bereavement: Hospice has a chaplain available to assist with emotional and spiritual support. Hospice also offers bereavement services to family members and caregivers for up to 13 months after patients pass.
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