Hello Dr. Laura,
I have heard several callers in a dilemma about waiting for hospice care due to the 6 month prognosis requirement. As a past marketer for a wonderful hospice, I spent much time clarifying this requirement for many patients who were both torn about admitting their need and/or desperate for help, but concerned that it was too soon. As with most benefits, the 6 month stipulation is more a suggestion than a requirement as no one on this earth has a certainty about our time of death. We have had patients with us as long as two years.
Many details set aside, two basic guidelines within the 6 month rule is 1) the patient is not seeking aggressive or curative care (for example not receiving chemotherapy) and 2) the patient has shown a decline (i.e. Weight loss, less and less able to perform functions of daily living) . Many people misunderstand hospice is not a place you go to, but a service. You only go somewhere for either up to 5 days for respite (a rest for family caretakers), an emergency, or if 24 hour care or more than supportive care is needed. AND those living in assisted living facilities CAN also receive hospice care!
The most common comment I heard from families was how wonderful hospice was for them and they only wish they had not waited so long to call. I agree with you hospice can be a wonderful asset for families at this time of life and allow for children, spouses and siblings to more simply reflect and enjoy the end stages of life together rather than simply becoming caretakers in a possibly increasing and overwhelming role.
Thank you for the clarity and support you give to all of us listeners every day. Who knew things could be so simple (I didn't say necessarily easy).