How to Have the “Hospice” Conversation
By Bruce Dalglish of Philadelphia
Determining how to have the “hospice” conversation is never easy. Even planning the conversation can seem daunting, evoking a tremendous deal of emotions for caregivers ranging from concern to doubt and of course sadness.
If you are a caregiver currently looking after a loved one who has been diagnosed with a terminal illness, this conversation may not feel too natural. You may be wondering about when the best time is to have this conversation, and perhaps what the best setting would be.
It is important to consider the feelings of the patient as much as possible, and to make this conversation as comfortable as possible for your loved one based on his/her individual needs, diagnosis and personality. Ensuring the patient’s level of dignity, recognition of self-worth, and comfort are all important components that should be weaved into this conversation.
With regard to the setting, try to make sure that you have privacy so that all feelings may be shared. It may also be important to have certain family members or even relevant medical providers present during this conversation about the patient’s overall healthcare goals.
The conversation may begin with making sure that the patient has a clear understanding about their illness and diagnosis. If uncertainty is discovered, then this is may be the appropriate time to review the patient’s status to make sure that everyone is on the same page and an informed decision can be made moving forward.
This first part of the conversation can often easily segue into addressing the patient’s expectations. Discussing what the patient foresees for his/her time left also opens up an opportunity for the patient to share feelings, concerns, priorities and thoughts about what would make him/her feel most comfortable. Being with family, seeking independence, not wanting to become a burden – these are all potential possibilities to discuss.
If the patient has expressed interest in seeking independence and comfort, this may be an opening to introduce hospice care. There are many myths and misrepresentations about what hospice care is – so ensuring that the patient has a clear understanding of what hospice care is ends up being an integral part of the conversation.
Of course, strong emotions are expected. Offering comfort, support and understanding will help the patient feel cared for and reassured, especially as you move forward with creating a plan for next steps.
If you would like to consult with an Alliance Hospice expert, our staff is always available to help.
About the Author
A resident of Philadelphia, Bruce Dalglish has served as the Chairman and CEO of Alliance Hospice and All Caring Hospice since 2005. In this role, Bruce Dalglish oversees the development and strategic direction of both companies. From 2008 – 2013, Bruce Dalglish served on the Public Policy Committee of the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization (NHPCO).
Disclaimer: Alliance Hospice blogs provide education information, not medical advice. Please consult with your medical providers when making end-of-life care decisions.