Hospice Is Hope: When Is The Right Time For Hospice?

HOV Stella, mother of HOV employee Diane Loven

By Lin Sue Cooney

A pretty amazing thing happens to people who work at Hospice of the Valley. People we’ve never met will introduce themselves, and then, blinking back tears, thank us for the beautiful care their loved one received.

And then, what we hear from many families is: “I wish we’d called hospice sooner.”

Truth is… we wish the same thing. We want every patient and family to have compassionate care and support for as long as possible while they are living with their life-limiting illness, not just at the very end.

So when is the “right time to call hospice?”

The right time is when a patient is ready to shift from aggressively treating their terminal illness to having care that keeps them comfortable. For some people that is sooner, for some it’s later – there is no crystal ball.

Many of us are fearful of the word “hospice” because it sounds like “giving up.” We associate hospice with end-of-life and push it away. And because we are afraid, we wait too long to choose hospice.

Many studies show hospice patients live longer because they have more access to medical care that comes right to their homes. Their symptoms are managed so they can really enjoy life. They get emotional and spiritual support, which helps brighten their outlook. Family members are supported, reducing stress and enhancing quality of life for everyone.

Hospice also relieves anxiety. Someone struggling with a life-limiting disease is often one late-night crisis away from a 9-1-1 call and a trip to the hospital. Families have peace of mind knowing they have 24/7 clinical support and that we can send a nurse to their home any time of day or night.

But isn’t hospice expensive?

Families sometimes mistakenly believe they can’t afford hospice. It must be really expensive to have a whole team coming to your home to care for you, right? But hospice is paid for by Medicare and most insurance plans. And no one should ever worry if they don’t have coverage. As a not-for-profit, Hospice of the Valley turns no one away – regardless of insurance or financial means.

What if I sign up for hospice too early?

Another big misconception is that your hospice benefit can run out if you sign up too soon. Hospice care is available for as long as you need it – you can’t “use it up.” Instead of waiting until the very last weeks or even last days, families could have beautiful care and support so much longer. They could rest in the knowledge that they are not alone. They could spend time making memories that will last a lifetime. And patients could have someone to hold their hand and walk alongside them on this journey.

If you have questions about hospice care, please talk to your doctor or call one of our nurses any time at Hospice of the Valley: 602-530-6900. More information is also available at hov.org.