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How to Start the Conversation About Hospice Care

As a caregiver of a person with a progressive or life-limiting illness, you may have noticed a change in your loved one’s condition. Perhaps treatments don’t seem to have the effect they once did, or it’s harder to manage symptoms. Maybe your loved one is in increasing pain. You may be wondering if hospice care is the right option—and what’s the best way to get the conversation started.

Talking with Family Members

Although most people are aware of the benefits hospice and palliative care provide, it can be difficult for a patient and family members to acknowledge that hospice may be the right choice for themselves or their loved one. If you think your parent might be resistant, how do you bring up the subject?

Amy Newman, RN and CHPN with VNSNY Hospice and Palliative Care, suggests that you start by acknowledging the topic’s difficulty. “Saying ‘I’m going to ask you a few sensitive questions,’ helps to let your loved one know that you’re bringing up a delicate but important topic, and it reminds you to address the subject with kindness and compassion.”

As a hospice and palliative care nurse, Newman often has similar conversations with patients and families who are considering hospice care. By focusing questions on your parent’s desires and needs, and how he or she is feeling, you’ll find out what is important to him or her. If your parent is undergoing cancer treatment, you might ask:

  • “You seem to be a lot more exhausted after your chemo appointments—how do you feel?”
  • “Do you want to spend so much time getting to and from treatment?”
  • “Is there another way you’d like to be spending your time and energy?”

Remind your parent—and any other family members—that enrolling in hospice care will allow your family to make the most of your loved one’s time as the illness advances. Rather than thinking of it as “giving up,” think of it as choosing to enjoy the people you love, in familiar surroundings.

Talking with Doctors

You may wish to discuss hospice with your parent’s doctor. Patients usually enroll when their physicians determine that they may have a life expectancy of less than six months if their disease runs its normal course. When patients enroll in a hospice program, they can expect:

  • Treatments designed to relieve pain and manage the symptoms of disease
  • To be treated with dignity and respect
  • To receive the emotional and spiritual support to cope with the changes ahead.

Anyone can make the referral to VNSNY Hospice and Palliative Care by calling 1-212-609-1900. Our staff will take care of everything, from assessing eligibility to verifying insurance coverage. Our primary concern is providing your loved one with the comfort and dignity that he or she deserves.

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