The Discussion: Speaking with Your Doctor about Hospice Care

Deciding to begin hospice care can be hard. It is never easy to face the end of a life. However, Shining light hospice care can help you, your family, and even your doctor. Working with your doctor is a critical step to ensuring that you’re getting the best possible care and treatment during this time.

Of course, many patients are unsure how to speak with their doctor about hospice care. When should the discussion take place? What should you ask? Can the doctor even make an impact on your hospice care?

We understand that you have many questions. This guide was designed to answer those and walk you through the process of speaking with your doctor about hospice care and your end-of-life concerns. It doesn’t have to be a struggle – this guide will simplify things for you.

When to Have the Discussion

First, let’s start with timing. When should you speak with your doctor about hospice care? The answer is “as soon as possible”. There’s a natural temptation to wait to have this talk. You’ve got years left. Hospice is just for the final few weeks or days, right? That’s incorrect. Hospice care is available to patients with as long as six months of life expectancy remaining. It can help terminally ill patients live pain-free and enjoy their final months.

However, that doesn’t mean you need to wait until you’ve been given a prognosis of six months to live to broach the topic of hospice with your doctor. Speak with them now about the prospect. Many patients find that simply talking to their doctor about end-of-life concerns helps provide them with peace of mind.

So, start early. Get your doctor involved in the planning process. This will help ensure that your wishes are known and followed when the time comes.

Important Questions to Ask

Before beginning hospice care, make sure to ask your doctor some critical questions. These include the following:

  • Will you be open about my illness and prognosis with me and my family?
  • As we go into hospice, will you provide me and my family with the information necessary to make decisions?
  • If my health plan or insurance company tries to deny hospice care coverage, will you stand up for my rights?
  • Will you be willing to work in tandem with my hospice care team to ensure appropriate care is provided?
  • Will you respect my decision to pursue hospice care despite any personal feelings?

Questions to Ask the Hospice Team/Doctor

In addition to your primary care doctor, you will also have a hospice doctor and a team of medical professionals employed by the hospice company. You’ll need to ask some questions of them, as well. These include the following:

  • Do you accept my insurance/Medicaid/Medicare? Will my coverage pay for all the costs associated with hospice care?
  • Will you work with my doctor to ensure continuity of care and treatment for my other illnesses/conditions?
  • How fast does your staff respond if I’m in pain?
  • Is there an option to give my familial caregiver a respite from caring for me so they can rest or take care of other responsibilities?

Tips for Working with Your Doctor

In addition to asking questions of your doctor, you’ll need to take some specific steps to ensure that everything goes smoothly. We recommend that you follow the tips below:

  • Create an advance directive, name a trusted representative, and give your doctor a copy of the directive to keep on file.
  • Make sure that your doctor knows what you need in terms of comfort and care.
  • Ensure that your doctor has fully explained everything in terms of procedures, medications, and anything else that will impact your time.
  • Note that, legally, a doctor doesn’t have to follow prior orders (including an advance directive) if they conflict with their religious or moral beliefs. Verify with your doctor that they’ll follow your advance directive now.
  • Make sure your doctor is aware of who you have designated as a care representative.

What Role Will Your Doctor Play in Hospice Care?

There is a lot of leeway when it comes to how your doctor may work with your hospice care team. You will have access to a hospice doctor, but if you wish and your doctor is amenable, they can continue to guide your care plan. On the other hand, you may wish to have the hospice doctor make most of the decisions while your primary care doctor takes a secondary position. Ultimately, it is up to you and your doctor how to proceed, so make sure to speak with them about this before moving forward.

In the End

Hospice care is designed to make a patient’s final days as comfortable as possible and to provide dignity and compassionate treatment. Your doctor can play a central role in that process.

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