Hospice and My Dad 

Hospice Care
September 25, 2023

Hearing the word Hospice for the first time

Most of us have heard the term “hospice” and most likely you have a vague idea of what the hospice benefit provides. But it’s a wholly other thing to have the word hospice mentioned when it’s in a conversation about your loved one. 

In my case, I was visiting my 88-year-old dad at his home in an assisted living community and the director of nursing pulled me aside and asked if we could talk. My dad had recently lost strength in his shoulder and that put a lot of pressure on his wrist to get out of bed and transfer to the bathroom or his wheelchair. Now with the extra strain, his wrist was in pain and weak. Without the use of his arm, he was scared he might fall and the staff was scared they might drop him.

These are the challenging but much-needed conversations nursing directors find themselves in every day. What we needed was a plan for the days my dad’s shoulder and wrist acted up. What we needed was equipment to help keep him transferred safely, more support from caregivers and nursing staff, and something for his pain, all of which describe the hospice benefit.

Discussing Hospice

So the nursing director opened the conversation up about the potential appropriateness of hospice for my dad. I must say, it caught me off guard, and I’m in the hospice business. Now I know how every family feels when the “H” word is mentioned. Could my dad be so close to passing that hospice would be appropriate? I thought hospice was for those who were more clearly on a clinical trajectory of decline with a terminal illness.

I then asked myself the “big hospice question”, would I be surprised if my dad passed within the next 6 months? After giving it some thought, I had to admit I would not be surprised. I would be sad. I would miss his optimism. But I would not be surprised.

Hospice Eligibility Assessment

Today the hospice nurse from my company, Kindful Health, will come and meet my dad and do an eligibility assessment. I don’t yet know if they will conclude he is hospice-appropriate or if we will need to come out of pocket to buy some type of lift. 

What I do know is that I’m thankful the nursing director talked to me about hospice earlier rather than later. And I now know what it feels like to be on the receiving end of the difficult conversations our staff has every day with those families and patients that might benefit from care.