Over and over again, I’ve sat in rooms with 30 doctors, and I’ve asked the question, “How many of you refer patients to hospice? Early or late? Out of the 30 doctors perhaps five will raise their hand And usually the referral is made very close to the patient’s death. This is terrible. Patients and their loved ones are being denied a wonderful option that doesn’t cost them anything. That option is hospice.
Here are some of the things I teach doctors about referring to hospice. A hospice referral is similar to a referral to any other specialist. You are still their primary doctor. Hospice care does not mean that the patient can never return to the office or hospital for care. It just means that the focus of care is now on comfort, support and symptom management. The patient still needs you even though you are no longer able to heal their disease. You can however, heal their suffering. You can make sure they’re getting good pain management, good symptom control and help them have a profound and meaningful death. Hospice is a wonderful tool to help your patient in their journey.
Hospice is a team of people that help meet the patient’s and family’s physical, psychological, social and spiritual needs. Hospice provides TLC and support for the patient/family. In fact, hospice works so well that 13% of patients on hospice, will recover and be able to come off of hospice. No matter, being on hospice will increase both the quality and quantity of the person’s remaining days. Wouldn’t you want to live longer and better, even if your days were numbered? I would and I would want that for my loved ones as well.
The referral to the hospice team can be done at any time. Sooner is better than later. Not only is it better for the patient, but researchers found that if elderly spouse of the patient has the support of hospice for their loved one, they probably will not die within the next year after the death. The hospice referral will not only help somebody have a good death, but may end up saving another life.
Have a kind and respectful day.