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How to Talk to Someone About Hospice

When you’re caring for someone with a progressive illness, you may notice changes in your loved one’s condition. Maybe your dad has tried numerous treatments that have become less effective in managing his COPD over time. Maybe your loved one is in increasing pain as their cancer has spread. Or perhaps your wife has several chronic illnesses, and a procedure meant to help with one has caused serious problems. You may be wondering if it’s time to consider hospice—and how to get the conversation started.

Is It Time to Talk About Hospice Care?

When an illness progresses, it can be difficult to make choices about care. It can be difficult to talk about hospice, or to know whether you should even be thinking about it.

Thinking about hospice isn’t admitting defeat. Receiving hospice and palliative care is not “giving up.” Instead, hospice offers a level of care that patients (and their families) need when an illness gets to a certain point. Hospice seeks to improve quality of life through relieving pain and distress—physical as well as emotional, spiritual, and mental.

Hospice care may be appropriate when:

  • Your loved one has a diagnosis such as heart failure, COPD, end-stage renal disease, dementia, cancer, or stroke, and their illness has progressed to become life-limiting
  • Treatments to cure a condition no longer provide benefit, or are no longer an option
  • Symptoms are becoming harder to manage
  • Your loved one is spending more time in the hospital, with less time between hospitalizations
  • The main priority is comfort and relief from pain or other symptoms

How to Talk with Family About Hospice

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

Amy Newman, a Certified Hospice and Palliative Nurse, often has such conversations with patients and families. She 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 speak with kindness and compassion.”

By focusing questions on what your loved one wants and on how they are feeling, you’ll find out what is important to them. 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 radiation?”
  • “Is there another way you’d like to be spending your time and energy?”

Talking about all of your loved one’s care options as early as possible allows you and your loved one more time to focus on their priorities. Does your mom want to remain at home and avoid the hospital? Does your partner have relatives they’d like to contact while they still can? The hospice care team can help determine goals during this time, and can help your loved one achieve them.

What to Expect with Hospice Care

Hospice care from VNSNY is provided by a dedicated team of professionals with special training to help patients and families. 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.

When patients enroll in a hospice program, they can expect:

  • Treatments designed to relieve pain and manage the symptoms of disease
  • Dignified and respectful care
  • To receive the emotional and spiritual support to cope with the changes ahead

For more information, or to get started with VNSNY Hospice and Palliative Care, call us at 1-212-609-1900. Our staff can answer your questions and can help with everything, from assessing eligibility to verifying insurance coverage. Our primary concern is providing your loved one with the comfort that they deserve.

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