Information empowers patients, caregivers

Published 7:30 am Saturday, August 19, 2023

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It is reported in a study published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society that a large number of caregivers and seriously ill older persons have an unmet desire for increased communication about the expected progression of their or their loved one’s illness/disease.

Vickie Wacaster, Patient and Hospice Advocate with Aveanna Hospice (formerly Comfort Care Hospice)

In another study conducted by The Center for Gerontology and Healthcare Research, it was suggested that involving family members/primary caregivers in the decision-making and preparing them for what to expect improves bereavement and may offset increased mortality risks associated with caring for a terminally ill loved one.

Knowing their healthcare options empower patients and caregivers to make informed decisions about their treatments.

Communicating your goals with your physician and having a plan will make decisions easier.

Some suggested questions to ask physicians when considering types of treatments are:

1. What treatments are available for my illness?
2. What are the chances that a particular treatment will be effective?
3. Will this treatment prolong my life?
4. What are the risks of a specific treatment?
5. How will this treatment affect my other medical conditions and treatments?

Logically almost everyone wants to try every treatment available to cure a disease.

However, be sure to ask your physician.

6. What is our next step if this treatment does not work?

In a study of Palliative Care programs, bereaved family members of patients with home hospice service, in contrast to those in the hospital, long-term nursing facility, or assisted living facilities (where hospice services were not utilized to provide advantageous care), reported higher satisfaction, fewer concerns with care, and fewer unmet needs. Please note, hospice care is available to residents in nursing homes just as it is to individuals in their homes.

Hospice care affirms life and views death as a natural process. Hospice does not hasten death or “help” someone die but helps patients live the remainder of their lives as fully as possible.

Hospice helps to bridge the gap of fear associated with the dying process. It brings people together by communicating what is happening and what to expect while treating the patient with comfort measures that enable patients to maintain dignity and self-respect.

It is mostly accepted that the sooner patients access hospice services, the more they and their loved ones will benefit from the care received. A patient is ready for hospice when a terminal disease has reached an advanced stage, the patient is no longer seeking curative treatments, the Medicare disease-specific criteria guidelines are documented in the patient’s medical records, and a medical physician has agreed that the patient’s life expectancy is six months or less if, the disease follows the normal course. Please note life expectancy is never “by the book,” some patients will live longer than six months, and some will die sooner than expected.

“There is only one happiness in life — to love and to be loved.’ George Sand

— Vickie C. Wacaster is a Patient and Hospice Advocate for Aveanna Hospice.