Transitioning Patients From Palliative Care to Hospice

Helping Your Patients Understand the Transition from Palliative Care to Hospice

The transition from palliative care to hospice care can be a confusing time for patients and their families. It is likely they will feel many complex emotions including — sadness, fear, anger and more. As their provider, you have an opportunity to empower and educate them by keeping them informed of their options as they navigate the transition.

The Best Approach Is Proactive

We believe the best approach to a successful transition is to have a discussion as early as possible before the recommendation to move to hospice is made. If possible, discuss hospice as an option when the patient is diagnosed. By talking about hospice as a shift in care focus, from curative to comfort care, your patients will feel included in the development of their care plan.  Suffice it to say, if you encourage honest and open conversations regarding hospice early on, your patient and their family can better digest the idea and ultimately make an informed choice when the time comes. This also reduces the likelihood of a decision being made during a crisis which can lead to feelings of being rushed or unprepared.

Starting the Conversation

A physician’s duty is to cure illnesses and improve the health of their patients, so, it’s no surprise that the medical community can view hospice as a “failure”. However, it is imperative for doctors to focus on their patient and their life as a whole, not just in regard to their disease. Hospice isn’t failure or giving up hope, it’s about making the most of the days that a patient has left. To ensure a successful transition to hospice, physicians must overcome a hesitancy to discuss hospice and advocate for their patients.

To start the conversation about hospice with your patient and their family, consider the following details:

  • Create a safe space. This isn’t a discussion to be taken lightly, so choose a space that is free from distractions and where everyone can be seated.
  • Don’t rush. These conversations should not be rushed, so make time to have a meaningful discussion and don’t allow interruptions.
  • Put yourself in your patient’s shoes. Give the conversation thought beforehand and be prepared to answer questions. Your patient and their family will be facing a lot of mixed emotions, but you can be there for them as a trusted advocate.

How to Help Patients and Families Prepare

Once you have recommended that it is time to consider hospice, patients and their families may still not quite understand the nature of the transition and they will likely have questions. It is your job to help them understand why this referral was made and what their options are. A lack of information regarding the goals of hospice care can lead to confusion and complications as patients transition. Be candid with them about their prognosis and why you feel that hospice is the best choice for them. Focus on how hospice can give life back to their final days. Encourage them to consider in-home hospice care vs. a care center (like our Patient Care Center in Madeira). Our FAQ page is a great resource for patients and families that covers a lot of frequently asked questions about hospice.

Your patient and their family may already have advanced care directives or end-of-life goals, or they may have questions about how to determine these things. Be prepared with information and resources for them.

If your patient and their family decide that they want to pursue hospice as an option for end of life care, they should meet with representatives from hospice providers. If you have an ongoing relationship with a hospice, like Hospice of Southwest Ohio, you can help facilitate that meeting on their behalf. Even if you have ongoing relationships with providers, allow your patients and their families to explore other options for hospice and remind them that there is no obligation to choose that provider, and no pressure to make a choice immediately.

You are here to advocate for your patient and ensure they get the best care possible, but they need to feel empowered in their decision.

Find Out More About Hospice of Southwest Ohio

Hospice of Southwest Ohio is dedicated to enhancing the quality of life during a patient’s final months and days. Rather than viewing hospice as scary or troubling, it can be viewed as a natural way for patients to pass away with dignity and the loving support of family, friends and an interdisciplinary care team who helps them experience a more peaceful and comfortable death.

We are happy to answer any questions you may have about end-of-life care. Hospice of Southwest Ohio offers hospice, palliative and in-home primary care in and around the greater Cincinnati area in Clermont County, Butler County, Warren County and Hamilton County. Call today at 513-770-0820.

Find Out More About CareBridge Primary and Palliative Care

CareBridge Primary and Palliative Care offers services provided by a team of dedicated physicians, nurse practitioners, social workers and chaplains who are there to help relieve pain and suffering associated with any illness, at any time.

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