How would you choose to spend your last months of life? The reality is that everyone has a choice in how to experience their final days. When asked, most people say they would prefer to die in the comfort of their home surrounded by loved ones. Unfortunately, many do not see this wish fulfilled.
Sometimes patients and their loved ones are unaware that they have a choice. It is a patient’s choice to select when to stop aggressive treatment that may no longer be effective in slowing a disease process or illness. They can elect to receive treatments to keep them comfortable and at home leading to a more peaceful end-of-life experience. In fact, studies have shown that people who choose hospice often live longer and have their symptoms better managed than those who continue aggressive treatment.
Sometimes physicians are unwilling to accept that treatment is not working. A physician may find it easier to continue treating an illness rather than having a frank conversation with a patient and/or their loved ones about likely outcomes.
Sometimes patients have not made their end-of-life wishes known to their friends and family. The family, and perhaps the patient, wants “everything done.” What they don’t realize is what “everything” is – a breathing machine, painful treatments, and separation from their loved ones; just to name a few.
It is your choice to decide when the time for hospice is right for you. To the extent possible, hospice emphasizes quality of life and tries to give back to patients their own independence and control. Individuals who elect hospice care find that every effort is made to keep them comfortable; allowing them to spend their final months with their loved ones in the place that they call home.
Ideally patients are referred to hospice when their life expectancy is approximately six months. Choosing hospice earlier allows the patient and their loved ones to make the most of their end-of-life journey. The hospice team is always there to guide them through the process and provide support – neither prolonging life nor hastening death.