Many people ask, “When is the right time for hospice services?” The short answer is: Maybe sooner than you think. Probably the most common misconception about hospice is that hospice care is only for people who are days or weeks away from death. This is not true. Hospice care is most beneficial when it starts months before the end of life, giving the patient and family the opportunity to receive support from the hospice team while dealing with serious illness. A physician must verify that the life expectancy of an individual is six months or less in order to begin hospice services.

Hospice care may continue for an unlimited amount of time as long as the patient’s condition does not improve. Patients are reevaluated at monthly intervals to ensure that hospice care is still appropriate. If the patient’s condition is improving, he or she may be discharged from hospice. However, hospice care may resume later on when the person’s condition declines. There are no physical requirements for hospice care, such as being bed-bound or house-bound, or not being able to walk. Hospice patients often enjoy short outings out of the home and are encouraged to remain as independent as possible.

Something we often hear from families is “I wish we would have done this earlier!”