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When to Refer a Patient to Hospice

The word “hospice” evokes fear, hopelessness and grief. But Visiting Nurse Association of Ohio offers a different meaning: control, comfort and peace.

Doctors prescribe hospice care for patients with a prognosis of six months or less. Of course, no one can predict exactly how long anyone has to live. But doctors can use indicators, such as organ function and vital signs, to determine when a person’s condition is deteriorating and there are no further treatment options.

Dr. Christine Marsick, of VNA of Ohio Hospice, said patients usually wait for their physicians to raise the topic of hospice care. But, sometimes, the patients themselves make the call.

“There are some people whose doctors still might want to keep trying treatments, but they say, ‘I don’t want to go through that. I am too tired’,” Dr. Marsick said. “That is an equally noble decision.”

However the decision is made, patients and their families quickly realize that bringing in hospice does not mean they are simply giving up and waiting for the end. They find, instead, a new quality of life, no longer suffering with the effects of treatments they endured to prolong their lives.

The hospice team includes specially trained nurses, social workers, art therapists, massage therapists, spiritual care counselors and nurse aides. These staff members visit their patients at home, whether that may be a family residence or a skilled nursing facility. Dr. Marsick said VNA of Ohio’s hospice caregivers often develop close bonds with their patients during their time with them.

Hospice care takes special efforts to control patients’ pain, help the family maintain normalcy and enjoy the time they have left together. For example, a hospice nurse may notice that a patient naps throughout visits from her children because she is unable to sleep at night. The nurse would work with the patient’s doctor to find ways to help improve that sleep cycle.

Hospice care also can include giving a patient a massage to relieve stress relief or styling her hair and wearing her earrings to help her feel more like herself, Dr. Marsick said.

Hospice also provides support for families through counseling services to help work through the difficult, sometimes complicated emotions surrounding losing a loved one. Part of that support might include bringing patients and their families together for art therapy, creating a “legacy cookbook” of family recipes, a “legacy collage” of family photos or a scrapbook of life events. In some cases, the family members need one-on-one conversations with counselors.

“Often people realize that if they’d brought hospice in earlier, they could have had relief and a better quality of life for longer,” Dr. Marsick said. “Maybe they could go to a last family reunion or another activity. One of the things we hear most is, ‘Why did I wait so long? I wish I had done this sooner’.”

Call VNA of Ohio Today

Learn more about VNA of Ohio hospice services, or call us today at 1-877-698-6264.