Forced to Choose: Nursing Home vs. Hospice

By Paula Span

Article originally published by the NY Times. Original article can be found here.

An older person, someone who will die within six months, leaves a hospital. Where does she go?

Almost a third of the time, according to a recent study from the University of California, San Francisco, records show she takes advantage of Medicare’s skilled-nursing facility benefit and enters a nursing home. But is that the best place for end-of-life care?

In terms of monitoring her vital signs and handling IVs — the round-the-clock nursing care that the skilled-nursing facility benefit is designed to provide — maybe so. But for treating end-of-life symptoms like pain and shortness of breath, for providing spiritual support for her and her family, for palliative care that helps her through the ultimate transition – hospice is the acknowledged expert.

Paula Span is the author of “When the Time Comes: Families With Aging Parents Share Their Struggles and Solutions.”

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