Family and Friends Spiritual Life

Why It Matters to Have the Right End-of-Life Conversations

A doctor, sitting on a sofa with a senior man holding a cane, making a home visit.

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Talking about death and dying isn’t easy. That’s why so many of us, even doctors and nurses, do it vaguely. We as a whole need to serve people with compassion and honesty near the end of life.

Perhaps people aren’t told the whole truth about their condition. Or maybe they’re told in a confusing way, with lots of medical jargon.

Some of the reasons why are understandable. Doctors want their patients to know they’re doing everything they can, and they don’t want patients to give up hope.

But not talking about death doesn’t make traveling this road any easier. In fact, it can make the path bumpier, with more pain and disruption. Without honest, empathetic conversations among the patient, their families and doctors, the patient may not enter hospice care when it could have helped them the most.

Perhaps a loved one who would have preferred to spend their final days at home or in hospice surrounded by family instead passes away in the hospital.

Having these conversations ahead of time — and choosing a health provider who will offer empathetic guidance — is a critical part of finding dignified end-of-life care for your loved one.

The first step in finding that care is knowing your options. For example, did you know that many people have the ability to stay in their home near the end of their life? It’s called “routine hospice care.”

How Home Hospice Care Works

Many people find comfort in the familiar setting of home. Routine hospice care allows us to give that peace to our loved ones.

It works by bringing together a team of experts to make a plan and offer guidance and support along the way.

Routine home care is about managing symptoms and relieving pain, not curing an underlying illness.

What’s ‘Continuous Hospice Care?’

If a person is in crisis, they may require a higher level of care, called “continuous.” This option is available for people who require skilled nursing for symptom or pain relief for at least eight hours a day.

Most of this care is ordered by a doctor and provided by a nurse. This can take some stress off family members, allowing them to focus on showing their family member that they love them.

For patients who can’t stay at home, hospice care is also available in nursing homes and assisted-living facilities.

Though many people prefer to spend their final days at home, some people require more complex support for relief of pain and symptoms. Hospice care is also available in a hospice inpatient setting.

‘Inpatient’ Hospice Explained

When you see the word “inpatient,” think a place where you stay overnight, like a hospital or nursing home.

General inpatient care (GIP) is available to all hospice patients who are in need of pain control or symptom management that cannot be provided in any other setting. Skilled nursing care may be needed by a patient whose home support has broken down if this breakdown makes it no longer feasible to furnish needed care in the home setting.

GIP is not intended to be custodial or residential. Once a patient’s symptoms are stabilized, or pain is managed, he or she must return to a routine level of care.

Respite Care Gives You a Break

Caring for a loved one near the end of their life can be demanding, both physically and emotionally. Needing a break every now and then doesn’t make you a bad caregiver or partner — it just makes you human.

Respite care is provided to the patient only when necessary to relieve the family members or other caregivers that are caring for the patient at home. Respite care is short-term inpatient care and is reimbursed for no more than five consecutive days per respite period. This care is provided on an occasional basis.

Taking care of your physical, emotional and spiritual health not only helps you in the long run, it makes you a better caregiver.

A Connected System

Because we offer so many options for hospice care, we can help patients move among them as their needs change.

That’s important because the last leg on a person’s journey may not be predictable. They may need a home nurse one week, followed by respite or inpatient care in one of our hospice units.

No matter the level of care they need or where they’re living, patients can stay within our system. That simplifies their life and yours because you don’t have to navigate through multiple health systems.

So Much More Can Be Done

It’s a line you might hear delivered to a patient in a movie — “nothing more can be done” — but it’s not in our vocabulary. Even near the end of life, there is plenty that can be done to look after one’s whole-person health.

Your loved one in hospice deserves to live with both as little pain as possible and the chance to live each day to its fullest.

By having compassionate, honest conversations about your loved one’s health, we can offer services that lend dignity to the end of their life and allow them to pass away on their own terms.

Inquiring about hospice isn’t about giving up hope; it’s about doing what’s best for your loved one and extending your hands for compassionate, loving help. To learn more about our hospice services, please visit our website.

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