A Guide to Caring for Aging Family Members

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Hospice: When Should They Get Involved?

“When do you know to call in Hospice?” This question appeared as an AgingCare Daily Question: http://www.Agingcare.com

  • My mom has Dementia and is becoming very tired and is starting to not want to eat. She sometimes hides her food I give her so she can throw it away after. She is using her walker and does do some things for herself but that would only be to maybe wash a few dishes or go to the bathroom. If I tell her we are going out for a drive or a walk she is excited about that but to get her there is exhausting for her. She is 90 and otherwise very healthy…..

When I was primary caregiver for my mother-in-law, I belonged to a support group that was run through a local hospice. Our experience with hospice is well documented throughout my book, “What to Do about Mama?”

  •  “The women that run the group stressed that hospice loves to be able to help people live their life as fully as possible—that their mission is much greater than providing comfort to people on their deathbed.” (p. 20)
  • “A hospice group supplied my mother-in-law with a transport chair so I could get her out of the house to go to the senior center, and with travel oxygen so she could go to the beach with her daughter. In other words, although hospice eases the process of dying, it also facilitates and encourages the process of living.” (p. 81)

Keep in mind that a terminal diagnosis is a hospice requirement (with a life expectancy of 6-12 months). However, many people remain on hospice well-beyond that timeframe. I have even heard of cases with a diagnosis of “failure to thrive,” rather than something more specific like cancer.   It certainly does not hurt to speak to the doctor about hospice. He or she will let you know when the time is appropriate, and it never hurts to look ahead and be prepared.

Barbara Matthews

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