Question: The doctor has suggested my wife go on hospice. I am worried about having people in my home right now and am not sure if hospice is right for her. How do I know if I am making right decision?
Deciding to enroll your wife on hospice care is no doubt a difficult decision. There are many things to consider when thinking through your wife’s care options. The benefits of hospice care, and any risks associated with people coming into your home due to COVID-19, are things you need to consider when determining if this is the right time for hospice care.
First, consider what hospice care is and how it can benefit you and your wife at home. Hospice care is an approach to care focused on providing comfort for someone who has a terminal illness. It is meant for people whose doctor’s best guess is that they have 6 months or less to live if the illness runs its natural course. It must be initiated with a doctor’s order. This is a general prognosis, but many people live longer than 6 months, no one can fully predict this.
When someone is enrolled in hospice care you are assigning your Medicare (or other insurance provider) benefit to that hospice and all the medical care will now be provided through that hospice in your home. The hospice will have a team of care providers to assist your wife including nurses, doctors, social workers, home health aides, spiritual advisors, and even trained volunteers. They do not provide ongoing care at home; you will still to provide this yourself or hire a sperate home care agency. The hospice providers come in to handle the medical needs including, if needed, bathing assistance, medication assistance and nurse checks. They will provide you with a phone number to call 24/7 so that if there is an emergency you do not need to call 911 or go to the hospital. Often people feel hospice is the right option when the burdens of treatment outweigh the benefits. It allows you to keep your wife at home and provides you both support and care during her end of life.
There is much more involved in what hospice can provide so if you are unsure, I encourage you to have a hospice organization come and provide you with a consultation. Ask about their philosophy of care, what extra supports they provide to you and your wife, and discuss any of your concerns.
The hospice can review with you their procedures for protecting against COVID-19. You should expect them to have strict protocols for safety and infection control. Ideally by having them come to your home to provide the medical care it will allow you and your wife to avoid hospitals and doctors’ offices and thus actually reduce your risk of contracting COVID-19.
It is a good reminder to always ask anyone who comes into your home to wear a mask and you can do the same for them, while also maintaining social distancing of 6 feet apart when possible. This includes family and friends who may want to visit your wife and say their goodbyes. Encourage them to come one at a time and wear a mask. Consider using video chat options. It is important not to socially isolate during this time. Call friends, share stories, and allow your community to support you.
It is overwhelming to make these decisions and can be a huge weight on your shoulders. Talk to people in your life who you trust and consider all aspects. These programs are meant to support both you and your wife during this time. Many people feel relief when they enroll in hospice because they have a team to help them in their care at home. Whatever your decision is, your wife is fortunate to have you looking out for her best interests with love.
Martha Shapiro can reached at Senior Concerns at 805-497-0189 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.