Goldblatt: When Is It Time To Call Hospice?

When Is It Time To Call Hospice?
Bereavement and Volunteer Coordinator
Los Alamos Visiting Nurses

If you want to think about the death process, you need to focus on LIFE. Good Hospice care is about those who are LIVING and caring for each other to the fullest.

How do you know when your loved one is ready for Hospice? Most families think it is the last days or month of the family member’s life. Our lives have become so individualized and isolated in the dying process. People are scared to reach out and call for help as it’s the first time for many families in dealing with the details of illness and future loss.

Preparation for life and death is about putting support in place so that the real focus is on loving and being with your relative instead of only responding to the issues of caregiving. It can be very difficult to care for a family member at home and trying to do it alone. As human beings we are meant for community and connection. Hospice care is able to provide a support team of specialists in end-of-life services for seriously ill clients.

When is it time to call Hospice? As early as possible because special needs require Hospice professionals—the medical director; the RN’s; the health care aide; the chaplain; the music therapist; the medical social worker; the bereavement services. Call in the first stages of a terminal illness when the disease has progressed to the point that there’s no cure, and your loved one has decided to manage the pain and have comfort care. Call when you and your loved one has chosen to forego further testing and hospitalizations. Call when you are ready to begin to let go and say good-bye. Calling means that we have decided to stop feeling helpless and take action to get help.

The oath of Hospice is to “neither hinder, nor hasten death.” Hospice does not help people die sooner. Hospice helps people die naturally in their own time. Hospice helps people live as well as they can for as long as they can. Hospice’s goal is to improve the quality of life as much as possible for whatever time the loved one has left.

End-of-life care can be difficult to discuss for families but it is best for loved ones and family members to share their wishes long before it becomes a concern. Preparation for loss means learning more about Hospice care and asking your loved one’s doctor or the Hospice staff many questions about what to expect.

We want to access our skill, our intuition and our courage to walk with our loved one throughout the journey of the dying process.  Hospice support gives us “permission” to reach out and have help in sitting with death; to relinquish our control. The most natural thing to do is to live and also to die. Let Hospice care assist and partner with you (the family member, the friend) to help your loved one to die on their own terms.

We are only a phone call away.

November is Hospice Month. For more information, call 505.662.2525 or visit

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