The Journal of the American Geriatrics Society Finds Waiting Too Long to Use Hospice Care Can Make Suffering at End-of-Life Worse
Editor’s note: Consumer Reports interview 2017

We often hear from patients and families that they wished they had started hospice sooner. And even though this is a common sentiment, hospice is often started too late for families to benefit from its full breadth of care and support. A 2017 study by The Journal of the American Geriatrics Society found that waiting too long to use hospice care can actually worsen suffering at the end of life.

Patients with an advanced stage disease often spend months in and out of the hospital—putting stress on themselves, their families, and their finances. When hospice care is elected, curative treatments are usually replaced with treatments that focus on improving the quality of life by increasing comfort, reducing stress and managing pain and symptoms.

Study author Thomas Michael Gill, M.D., a professor of medicine, epidemiology, and investigative medicine, and the Humana Foundation professor of geriatric medicine, at Yale University states, “At some point, patients and their families and doctors realize that hospice is appropriate, but that happens perhaps later than it should. When folks are referred to hospice only in the last days of their life, it’s difficult to have a meaningful benefit.” Gill and a team of researchers from the School of Medicine at Yale University followed 754 people for nearly 16 years.

It’s important for patients and their physicians to have an open dialogue about what they hope for and expect from hospice. “Often, patients will say, ‘I’m more interested in the quality rather than the quantity of my remaining life,'” Gill says. Hospice plays a significant role in increasing quality of life. Care is provided at home or the place of a patient’s choosing (assisted living, nursing home). Hospice provides not only physical care but emotional and spiritual care. Hospice also reaches beyond the patient to support the family with education about the disease and what to expect, help with daily caregiving (baths, grooming) and connection to resources.

While it is difficult to initiate the hospice conversation, for yourself or a loved one, considering hospice sooner allows families to gain the support and care they need when it is most beneficial. Many people don’t realize they can ask for hospice care, you don’t have to wait until your physician recommends care. Palladium can help you determine when hospice would be most beneficial for you and your family.

“It’s challenging to have honest discussions with patients and families about death and the dying process,” Gill says. “But leaving the conversation until the very end makes it more difficult.” 

If you would like to learn if Palladium Hospice Care is right for you or a loved one, call our supportive team at 888.502.4646; we’re here to answer any questions you may have. You can also ask your physician to refer you to our care.