Yes, you heard me. Contrary to popular opinion, patients on hospice who are receiving supportive care, do live longer. They are happier, and they enjoy a better quality of life. How is this possible? After all, hospice is just about dying and the very end, isn’t it?
So many of us do not understand what hospice is. Hospice is NOT meant for the last few days of life. Unfortunately, most of the general public associates hospice with the last few days of life, or the final push of morphine before a loved one passes away. Yes, while hospice does provide support for patients who are at the very end, the program was designed for so much more.
So, what exactly is hospice?
Hospice is a way of thinking. Knowing that the medical condition you or your loved one has is beyond what our current medical practices can cure. This doesn’t mean you can’t try non-approved medical methods. In fact, a lot of patients do try alternative therapies after their doctor has told them they cant do any more from the medical stand point. That is ok, and if it is something you want to do, it is perfectly fine to do while you are on hospice.
Hospice is accepting that modern medicine has reached its limits or you as a patient are at a point in your life where you don’t want to be poked and prodded any more despite options still being available to you with modern medical practices. This is a state of mind.
Once you are here, you realize that the time you have left, the time God has given you, you want to focus on the things that are important to you. To be able to do those things, you need someone making you feel well enough to allow you to do them. That is the core essence of hospice.
Hospice optimizes your medication management. Hospice thinks outside of the box with focus on making you feel better, rather than long term side effects. Why worry about 5 years from now, when you can barely breathe or barely walk right now? Medications are adjusted to remove anything that may be slowing you down, and add things which may make you feel better, and give you energy.
You get nursing support at your home. Nurses come to your home, usually once a week (different per each patient), to assess your needs and make changes to your care plan.
You get Home Aides who come out and help with day to day needs, activities of daily living to allow for a brief break for caregivers.
You get Social Workers who can help you get important paperwork done so everything is in order for when the time comes.
You get Spiritual Counselors who assist with emotional and spiritual needs as you see fit.
You get volunteers who can spend time with patients for companionship.
The entire team sits down and discusses your case every 2 weeks to make sure you are getting the best care possible. Any issues are identified, and addressed as a team. Any urgent issues are addressed the day they come up. If you are doing well, a minimum review of you case occurs every 14 days.
So what does this all mean?
As a patient on hospice, you are receiving nursing support, homemaker/aide support, emotional support, psychological support, spiritual support, medical support. You are feeling better because your medications/medical plan have been optimized and you have a caring group of people who are always checking up on you making sure you are feeling your best.
When you feel better, you do more, you eat more, you interact with family more. When you do more, you eat more, you interact with others more, your body and your mind get stronger. A stronger mind and a stronger body leads to a longer life.
So yes, hospice can make you live longer. But you need to get the support sooner rather than later for it to make a difference. It’s not giving up, it’s changing the way medicine is practiced and the way you are being treated to focus on reducing suffering and improving quality of life. This is after all, what we all want from this world; to live pain/symptom free as much as possible and be able to do the things we enjoy.