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Taking Care of Mom and Dad: Common Hospice Concerns

One of the biggest worries related to hospice care is when a family member should enter a hospice program. At any time during a life-limiting illness, it's appropriate to discuss all of a patient's care options, including hospice.

By law, the decision belongs to the patient; but family members are often involved. Understandably, most people are uncomfortable with the idea of stopping aggressive efforts to "beat" an illness. Hospice staff members are trained to deal with these issues and are always available to discuss them with you and your family.

You don't have to wait until a doctor suggests hospice care for your parent. Feel free to discuss the prospect with the doctor at any time -- even if you don't think your parent or parents need that kind of care yet. It's usually good to address the issue before you get to the point of hashing out the mechanics. You can include others in this talk, such as other health care professionals, clergy and friends.

If your family's physician doesn't know enough about hospice or the available programs for your parents, there are many other avenues to explore. Most physicians know about hospice, however. Ultimately, it's up to you to obtain the information and use your physician as an alternate resource.

Information about hospice is available from the National Council of Hospice Professionals Physician Section, state hospice organizations or the National Hospice Helpline at 1.800.658.8898. You can also obtain information on hospice from the American Cancer Society, the American Association of Retired Persons and the Social Security Administration.

Many people wonder what happens when a patient shows signs of recovery and no longer needs hospice care. In the case of aging parents, this isn't common -- but, if your mom looks as though she can benefit from regular medical treatment (that is, in a hospital) or be at home, you can discharge her from hospice. If she should later need to return to hospice care, Medicare and most private insurance will allow additional coverage for this purpose.

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