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When is the right time to choose hospice care?

Hospice care is available to patients who no longer wish treatment directed at curing their disease. The hospice benefit is flexible. Initially, a physician certifies that the patient has a life expectancy of six months or less, if the disease follows its normal course.

Decisions surrounding the timing of end-of-life care can be difficult—for families and doctors. Care tends to focus on treatments. Too often, hospice or palliative care decisions are pushed down the road until patients lose the ability to share what matters most to them and how they want to live their final chapters of life.

If someone has increasing difficulty with basic tasks such as walking, getting up from a chair, bathing, dressing or using the toilet, you may want to consider hospice.

Signals that it may be time to ask about hospice include:

• Frequent hospitalizations or trips to the ER

• Frequent or recurring infections

• Reduced desire to eat, leading to significant weight loss

• Inability to perform tasks of daily living, such as eating, walking, using the bathroom, personal cleaning or getting dressed

• Rapid decline in health over past six months, even with aggressive medical treatments

• Uncontrolled pain, shortness of breath, nausea or vomiting

• Decreasing alertness, withdrawal or mental confusion

• Decision to focus on quality of life, instead of aggressive treatments


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