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Hospice Use Rising After Long ICU Stays

In the past few years, Hospice enrollment has been up, with more and more patients taking advantage of end-of-life services. However, many patients are enrolling within days of their death, after lengthy and costly ICU stays. The new report out today states that compared to a decade ago, nearly twice as many elderly people were dying while in hospice care. While the rise in utilized services is great news, the report also uncovered that hospice is still being used as a last resort, with costly ICU stays and aggressive treatment being the first option. By the time most patients make it into a hospice program, there are usually days left for them and their family to come to terms with the reality of the situation. Hospice is a program designed to offer physical, social, emotional, and spiritual support to dying patients and their family members. Hospice caregivers are also skilled in pain control to help keep patients comfortable in their last days. All-too-often, hospice services are not being suggested, or taken up, until after aggressive treatments show no promise. There are some cases where hospice works with patients as they go through these ICU stays and treatments, but this is not the case for most. In 2009, 25% of all hospice use was for a total of 3-days or less. Additionally, 40% of those cases followed intensive treatment and ICU stays. Also in 2009, hospice saw a nearly 21% increase in of program usage by terminal seniors. While use remains on the rise, many experts are urging terminal patients to take advantage of hospice programs over long-hospital stays and aggressive treatment, or at least seeking them sooner to gain support during end-of-life treatment practices. End-of-life plans are as important as when parents plan for their child’s beginning of life. Not only should patients and their families speak openly about a patient’s wishes, but these conversations should also be held with a patient’s physician. Working together, all parties can have a greater understanding of a patient’s end-of-life wishes. It also helps to open dialogue about support programs like hospice, where highly trained individuals can help everyone involved cope with life’s largest transition. Sources: USA Today - Health & Wellness - U.S. News & World Report/HealthDay - MedPage Today -
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