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Why Would I Sign Mom on to Hospice If She Is So Active?

When the physician recommends your parent or loved one be signed on to hospice, it is never easy to hear. It can often be confusing to understand when the individual seems to maintain a high level of activity.  I'm here to explain to you why it is a good idea to consider this recommendation, even though you may perceive your loved one's condition to render hospice unnecessary.

Here is the scenario. 

Your mother has been given information from her physician that gives her maybe six months to live.  Your physician suggested hospice, but you cannot understand why!  Your mom is doing well.   She is playing cards with friends, taking care of herself and going out at least once or twice per week.  Yes, she has a nagging cough and is far more tired than before, but she is really doing quite well. You are wondering, “What am I missing here? Why hospice? Why now?”

The goal of hospice care is to help individuals live their final days to the fullest.  There is no requirement to be bound to the home.  People on hospice can still travel, attend concerts, and receive guests.  You most certainly can wait until hands-on care is needed to begin hospice, and you may sign on or off at any time.  However, think seriously about why hospice was recommended.

I suggest considering hospice care while still active for a variety of reasons.  The primary reason for starting care sooner than later, is caregiver trust.  These are the nurses, doctors, social workers, chaplains, and bereavement staff that are going to work with her through her last days of life.  Knowing and trusting them is very important to experiencing a successful journey.  Imagine being in pain, slightly confused, or just not feeling well and having a bunch of new faces coming into your home.  On the flip side, getting to know your nurse, social worker, chaplain while you are still well – and can express your wishes without any urgency – is the easiest way to approach hospice and provides the most comfort to all family members, based on our experience.

Another reason to encourage mom to sign on to hospice is the psychosocial support she will receive in planning her remaining days.  Your mother may not want to discuss everything that is on her mind with one of her children. Encourage her take advantage of the time to prepare with professionals, while she is still able.  Waiting until the last few days of life does not afford her that opportunity. 
Signing onto hospice now or later is a choice for your mother.  There is no right or wrong time for care to be initiated. 

I hope that I have given you a perspective to consider, one that I have seen benefit many patients and families over the years.