Here at the Butler County Department on Aging, we get asked repeatedly, “What is hospice?” Most people believe the typical definition that hospice care is provided to patients with a life expectancy of six months or less. Rather than seeking a cure, hospice care aims to make their remaining time with us as comfortable and as meaningful as possible. This may mean pain relief and nursing care, but also includes emotional support and help with everyday tasks.

Under this broader way of thinking about end-of-life care, the needs of family, friends and caregivers are also taken into account. Hospice recognizes that loved ones are on a difficult journey as well and may benefit from support, expert advice and services that hospice can provide.

Inpatient, outpatient and respite care

When most people think of hospice care, they think of in-home assistance. But hospice can also be provided in an inpatient facility or hospital. Hospice can provide inpatient care for those in nursing or other facilities, but they can also help those who wish to remain in their own homes. Many people want to stay in a familiar environment and remain as close as possible to loved ones. Hospice care should be available where the patient lives, no matter where that is.

Understandably, providing care to a terminally ill person can be emotionally difficult and physically stressful. Hospice services can include respite care, where they offer caregivers a short break to rest and recharge.

When should you call hospice? Over the years, so many of our patients and their families have told us that they wish they’d called hospice sooner – and wish they’d begun to receive care from hospice sooner. In fact, so often with hospice and palliative care, sooner is better. Here’s why:

You live longer. Studies show that people in hospice care live longer than patients getting curative treatment for the same illness. Treatment is time out of your life. Hospice care can add quality time to your life.

You feel better. The side effects of aggressive treatments for cure of life-limiting illnesses frequently make you feel sicker. Hospice care provides you comfort and quality of life. By choosing to stop treatment and start hospice or palliative care, hospice patients may feel better and gain quality time.

You regain control of your life. In hospice care, you can socialize and focus on living. The care hospice provides is about quality of life spent with family and friends. And by managing your symptoms, hospice can help keep you out of the hospital.

You don’t have to stay in hospice care. If you get better, you can leave hospice care! And you can re-enter hospice whenever you need it – simple as that.

Hospice can share the care. It’s difficult for family to be your full-time caregivers – difficult for you and them. Hospice can manage and coordinate your care, which means that your loved ones get to be your family again, instead of your exclusive caregivers. Hospice can give you the expert care you need. You don’t need to be in the last days or weeks of life to qualify for hospice and palliative care. Hospice care is about living – living well in the time you have left. The sooner you call hospice, the better chance you have a quality time.

If you have a life-limiting illness with a prognosis of six-months or less and meet criteria for care, you can access hospice, and you and your family can immediately begin to reap the benefits. Medicare does pay for hospice care, and they can provide medical equipment, medications and emotional support. There are many hospices to choose from, and choosing the one that is right for you is a personal preference.

For more information on hospice agencies available in Butler County, visit our website and see our resource directory online at www.bucoks.com or call the Butler County Department on Aging to have one mailed to you. You can reach us at 775-0500.