Call Hospice Sooner: Your right to six months or more of care

Posted by Hospice by the Bay on Tue December 3, 2013 in Studies and Research

Hospice can seem like a difficult decision to those patients and families who aren’t aware that expert pain and symptom management combined with a team-approach to personalized care can markedly improve a terminal patient’s quality of life. Once they experience the many benefits of Hospice by the Bay’s support, they often tell us, “We really wish we’d called you sooner.”

The phenomenon of families calling on hospice support “too late” was addressed in a recent report from the Dartmouth Institute for Health Care Policy and Clinical Practice, “Trends in Cancer Care at the End of Life: A Dartmouth Atlas of Health Care Brief“. Comparing data from 2010 to the period 2003–7, the authors found a “substantial” 12.2 percent increase in the number of cancer patients who enrolled in hospice in the last month of life. However, for patients who enrolled within three days of death, the increase was more than 30 percent.

The report summarized this finding, “… a growing proportion of patients begin receiving hospice service in the last three days of life, a time period often too short to provide patients the full benefit of hospice care.” It also noted that “High-intensity end-of-life care, by contrast [to hospice], is associated with poor quality of life and of death, as well as higher costs, and, in some cases, reduced survival.”

We hope studies like this will:

  • motivate doctors to talk with patients soon after a terminal diagnosis about the option of hospice care, and
  • encourage eligible patients to get the personalized care and support needed to increase their quality of life by taking advantage of their right to six months or more of our care under the Medicare Hospice Benefit.

Our patients often say they wish their doctor would have had The Hospice Conversation with them, even before they were ready for care, so they would have known about the services and types of care available. An earlier discussion of their options also would allow them time to define their wishes for end-of-life treatment and care.

Help someone you know find information about hospice by sharing this blog with them, sending them a link to our website, and encouraging them to talk with their doctor or contact Hospice by the Bay.

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