A recent study published in The Journal of Post-Acute and Long-Term Care Medicine concluded that end-of-life (EOL) conversations between healthcare providers, families, and patients promote improved palliative care.1 In many cases, however, the uncertainty around how terminal illnesses may progress for patients in hospice care, as well as the emotional impact it may have on both staff members and patients alike can make these delicate conversations daunting. Nonetheless, these discussions are critical for patients in hospice care.
Below, let’s explore three key benefits of last-hour conversations and how hospice clinicians can support patients through them.
Helps Patients and Families Prepare
Patients and families have questions: questions about what the next days and weeks look like, how the terminal illness may change physical, mental, and emotional states, and what family members can do for their loved ones. The sooner these questions are answered, the better. As noted by the Hospice Foundation of America, the most common regret of patients and their families is that they didn’t start having these hospice and EOL conversations earlier.2
For hospice staff, this can be a valuable opportunity to act as a source of reliable and relatable information for patients and their families. Families can benefit from having a greater understanding of both the patient’s current condition and likely prognosis. Hospice nurses may use this time to provide family members with clear and concise information that isn’t overly technical or detailed. In turn, families can have a true understanding of both general disease progression and how they can support their loved one during their last hours.
Offers Essential Information
While patients and their families are often given some information about the nature and progression of terminal illnesses, they sometimes lack specifics. What’s important to families of those in hospice care is often not the minutia of technical disease data but rather knowing more about the impact the illness may have on their loved ones. Staff members can prepare for these conversations by having on-demand access to personalized patient histories and outcomes. When hospice staff is equipped with hospice management suites that allow them to quickly find the information they’re looking for, this can then help them answer any questions the family may have while also engaging in open dialogues.
It’s never easy to know what to say to someone who lost a loved one. This can be especially challenging for hospice staff members. Since working with end-of-life patients is part of their day-to-day life, they want to be sensitive to a patient’s needs, but they may not share the same depth of feelings and emotions as a patient’s family.
The result is a need for compassionate hospice care that strikes a balance between professional responsibilities and personal feelings. As noted by a 2018 study published in the National Library of Medicine, “Compassion has been recognized as a key aspect of high-quality healthcare, particularly in palliative care.”4 EOL conversations — and post-loss follow-ups — form a critical part of compassionate care. By helping families feel connected to loved ones who are in hospice, staff members can reaffirm that their loved ones are in good hands and cared for even at the very last hour.
Find out how you can improve EOL conversations and stay up to date with a hospice patient’s care with Net Health Hospice.
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1 National Library of Medicine, ““Association Between End-of-Life Conversations in Nursing Homes and End-of-Life Care Outcomes: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis,” November 20, 2018.
2 Hospice Foundation of America, “Starting the Conversation,” 2018.
3 National Library of Medicine, “Compassion in Palliative Care: A Review,” December 2018.