What Hospice Care Can Do for Seniors

To qualify for most hospice care programs, patients must have a terminal diagnosis and an expected prognosis of six months or less. Patients at any stage of their life span may enter, but because of the requirements, most hospice patients are seniors who are dealing with an advanced-stage cancer or chronic disease.

Seniors often begin to consider hospice once they have exhausted their potentially curative treatments. They may also turn to hospice if they are not candidates for traditional treatments because of their age or late-stage diagnosis. Once patients decide that a purely palliative regimen is right for them, hospice services can help them stay comfortable and maintain their quality of life.

Hospice programs also help seniors and their families cope with the terminal diagnosis. From counseling to support groups, these programs help seniors address end-of-life decisions, such as life support and wills. They also help seniors manage the emotional stress they may be feeling about the upcoming months. Patients’ family members – regardless of age – can also benefit from the emotional health services that make up a large component of hospice care.

Health Care Services

Hospice nurses provide a number of health care services that are specifically designed to help patients keep their symptoms under control. While these services are not intended to increase a patient’s life span, they are intended to improve the patient’s quality of life. These services primarily help seniors manage pain, nausea, diarrhea or constipation, fatigue, appetite loss and other common symptoms.

Hospice physicians regularly evaluate the patient’s condition and decide which palliative therapies would provide them with the most benefits. Through hospice, seniors can obtain pain medications (either non-steroidal or steroidal, depending on the severity of their discomfort), wound care, hygienic assistance and other general personal care. Seniors who need help portioning out or remembering to take their medications can also receive this assistance from their hospice nurse.

Seniors can also rely on their hospice staff in case of an emergency. While seniors who enroll in an inpatient hospice facility receive 24-hour monitoring, patients who receive hospice services at home also have hospice nurses on-call all day. This provides the patient and their family extra reassurance in case of a medical crisis.

Emotional Care Services

Seniors also gain access to emotional care services when they enter a hospice program. Hospice care incorporates several different supportive care options, including:

Throughout their time with hospice, seniors will be able to work with clergy members, professional counselors or psychologists, social workers and other volunteers who are trained to guide them through the process. While patients may not immediately realize the importance of these emotional care services, they help patients cope with stress, anxiety and fear. Additionally, family members often have access to emotional support and bereavement services through the organization.

Author bio: Faith Franz researches and writes about health-related issues for The Mesothelioma Center. One of her focuses is living with cancer.

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