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Hospice Care: Some Basic Information to Ease the Transition

Cheryl has a BA in psychology, has worked as a home health aid, Nurse assistant and cared for hospice patients


Hospice definition

The Cancer Society gives the following definition of hospice: " special kind of care that focuses on the quality of life for people and their caregivers who are experiencing an advanced, life-limiting illness. Hospice care provides compassionate care for people in the last phases of incurable disease so that they may live as fully and comfortably as possible." In layman's terms, Doctors recommend hospice when based on their experiences and medical science a person has 6 months or less to live. Hospice means that the medical community has given up, and done all they are going to do. The patient is sent home to be made comfortable with the care of trained Hospice personnel to assist the family. Once hospice is called in this indicates that the illness is most likely going to end in death. There will be no type of treatment, but only pain management medicines given to make the dying person more comfortable. Hospice is not home health care, it is an aid to the dying. Someone must be terminally ill and expected to expire within 6 months before this service can be available. Everyone has a different approach to end of life issues and their choice should be respected. I know people who never admitted their loved one was dying and in hospice care. They would say that home health was coming in to help and never mentioned hospice. I know two individuals who were still taking the terminally ill person to the doctor.

Not necessarily a death sentance

My mother died 5 weeks after being sent home for hospice care but my father had a different experience. He was in an actual hospice facility in New York City. A childhood friend visited him one day and laid her hands on him and prayed. My father gained weight, his cancer disappeared and he died one year later from a heart attack. Each situation is different but for the majority, when hospice is recommended they die within the 6 month period. Although hospice does not result in death 100% of the time, please understand that its purpose is to prepare the family for their loved one's life to end.


Hospice benefits

Hospice services are free to the family and include nurse assistants and actual nurses who come to the home to check on the patient. They help with bathing, feeding, changing the bed, and also check vital signs. There is also counseling for grieving families who need it. The goal of hospice is for the dying person to be at home around loved ones instead of a hospital. A hospital bed is set up for the terminally ill individual and all supplies are provided. Hospice volunteers give the family much-needed help so that they are not overwhelmed trying to take care of the dying person. Some people think it is harsh for doctors to stop all treatment and send patients home to die, but this does save on medical bills and visits to the hospital.

Reality check

Hospice forces people to face reality and not look for false hope. When these services are rendered they make sure to explain in detail what to expect. Someone who is in denial might not be listening or block out what is being said. When you know what to expect this makes it easier to handle. Hospice nurses will be asking what funeral home you want to use which sounds cruel but is necessary. When someone is in hospice care, they will no longer have doctor visits, go to the ER, or be admitted to the hospital for any reason. When their time comes there will be no life-saving efforts such as CPR. This is the complete opposite of what is normally done if someone has a medical emergency. With hospice, you do not call 911, you let the person die. When they stop eating you are advised to not try to feed them or give them water. When your loved one transitions to the afterlife you call the hospice contact to come and verify that death has occurred. The next call will be to the funeral home rather than 911. When a patient is in hospice they are expected to die so there is no need for the police to come to your home,

Signs the end is near

Many times there are signs that death is near but the grieving family may not realize it or ignore what they are seeing and or hearing. If you notice your loved one becoming restless, undressing or playing with their pajamas or nightgown this usually means the end is near. They might suddenly get a burst of energy or superhuman strength. People who are mild-mannered might begin cursing, They may tell you they have been talking to a deceased loved one, see angels, or are hearing heavenly music. You could observe them looking upward or staring at a corner in the room and seeming to have a conversation with someone you don't see. There have been many cases of hospital patients saying they want to go home, and it's been mistaken that they want to return to their earthly home but die soon after. Please keep in mind that hospice patients are individual and might have different experiences.


Respect the volunteers

The hospice volunteers are trained to help you accept what is about to happen. They are not all-knowing but they do know their job. When they give you an estimated time of death it could be spot on. When my mom stopped eating they told me that without a miracle from God, my mom would be dead in 7-10 days. She died a week later. A few weeks after her funeral my husband and I were visiting a woman in the hospital. I noticed she was distracted and not paying attention to us. She was fiddling with her nightgown and I was troubled. I told my husband that based on what hospice had said and what happened to my mom, this woman had about a week to 10 days unless God healed her. She died 8 days later. Please understand that the hospice volunteers are not being cruel or speaking death, they are telling you what their experience is showing them. Everyone easily understands the signs that a woman is about to give birth such as the baby dropping and not moving around as much. There are also signs that can prepare for death but this is not something that most people are looking forward to. Listen to the hospice personnel and follow their instructions because it will benefit you.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

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© 2020 Cheryl E Preston


Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on October 03, 2020:

The people who choose to work in hospice care are generally very loving. We have had wonderful experiences with hospice care for my mother-in-law. She lasted longer than 6 months. My mother was only in hospice care for less than 24 hours before she passed on to the next life.

To extend the agony of persons with terminal diseases, in my opinion, is cruel and unnecessary. Letting them die as pain-free as possible, surrounded by loved ones, is so much better.

People can also opt-out of hospice care if the situation changes.

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on October 03, 2020:

My mother passed away in Hospice last year after about 2 weeks. They were so nice, considerate and worked with our wishes. Your article explains so much wondeful concerning Hospice, and I think it will be helpful for those facing this tough situation.

Cheryl E Preston (author) from Roanoke on October 03, 2020:

Thank you so much, Lorna. God bless.

Lorna Lamon on October 03, 2020:

Excellent advice on what can be a difficult time for families. Acceptance that a loved one is going to die is never easy and the more prepared they are, the easier it is to cope. Well written Cheryl.

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