When you think about home, what do you imagine? Are you picturing somewhere familiar? A place filled with personal items and mementos from a life well lived? Somewhere that you’ve spent years, if not decades, making memories with loved ones?
Home is often synonymous with comfort, especially to those who’ve spent decades honing their trinket collections, crafting tasty meals, and brightening their walls with family photos and visited landscapes.
For someone who is nearing the end of their life, comfort is paramount. At-home hospice care is the best option for many families with loved ones who need palliative care. Read on to learn more about the many benefits of at-home hospice care for patients and their families.
What is Hospice Care At Home?
Are you wondering what hospice care is at home? Hospice care is the practice of providing a safe and comfortable environment for terminally ill patients. This is a type of palliative care focused on relieving suffering for those with a more complex or terminal illness.
Hospice care aims to create a peaceful end-of-life setting rather than concentrating on life-prolonging measures, which can be painful, exhausting, or otherwise contradictory to the patient’s wishes.1 The main goals of hospice care are to:
- Accommodate emotional and spiritual needs
- Respect the patient’s wishes and goals
- Manage discomfort and stress
- Reduce hospitalizations through symptom management
- Prevent exposure to other illnesses
- Reduce caregiver burnout in the patient’s family
- Prioritize well-being and quality of life through nursing support at home
- Provide wound care at home
- Extend comfort care to older adults
At-home hospice care typically has the same goals as hospice care in an institutional setting. The key difference is the location—institutional hospice care provides end-of-life care in nursing homes or hospitals. In contrast, at-home hospice care involves hospice workers coming to the home of the patient.
What Are the Benefits of Hospice Care at Home?
Families are increasingly choosing to do hospice care in the comfort of their homes instead of an assisted living facility. That’s because the goals of hospice care are more easily achieved in a home environment.
So, let’s dive deeper into the benefits of at-home hospice care.
#1 Emotional Support
One of the core focuses of at-home hospice care is promoting emotional and spiritual well-being for patients and their families. In addition to being highly trained in the medical component of caregiving, at-home hospice caregivers and hospice staff also know how to provide emotional and mental health support to a hospice patient.
Home health nurses can help to answer questions (both medical and emotional) about end-of-life care, provide reassurance in times of stress, and truly get to know the sick or injured individual as a person, not just a patient. As such, hospice caregivers can serve as both a medical professional and a companion.
At-home hospice care programs will also often include bereavement counseling for family members in the event of their loved one’s passing.
#2 Help with Activities of Daily Living (ADLs)
Sometimes, the most routine tasks can feel overwhelming for those with a terminal illness or severe injury. These complex medical issues can make it difficult to complete ADLs: activities of daily living.
Hospice caregivers can often help their patients with the following ADLs:2
- Bed mobility
All of these activities are necessary for a safe and comfortable living environment. A hospice caregiver can help decrease stress or discomfort with these tasks while also encouraging the patient and helping them to build confidence in their abilities.
#3 Consistent Availability of the Caregiver
If you work with a home health program, you will commonly see the same nurse or health aide. In contrast to the unpredictable variability of a hospital environment, the same person will be treating your loved one daily, ensuring that each of the patient’s needs are being met.
Furthermore, hospice care programs offer the same 24/7 emergency care that hospitals do, with the added benefit of familiarity. If your loved one were to need physical or emotional support, they could immediately get in contact with their care team to ensure their needs are met at all times.
#4 Closer Relationships Between the Patient and Caregiver
At-home hospice care provides the opportunity for the patient and their caregiver to form a close relationship. Seeing the same person on a daily or weekly basis promotes trust-building and encourages a more intimate bond. This kind of relationship is often impossible in a hospital environment where multiple nurses or doctors will inconsistently interact with the patient.
Even if a caregiver is only with you for a few months, being in the home environment can make it feel like they’re a part of the family.
#5 Reduced Caregiver Burnout
Family caregiver burnout, a state of exhaustion resulting from caring for someone else’s health, is all too common amongst the family members of a terminally ill or severely injured person.3
Oftentimes, family or friends will forget to take care of themselves when they’re putting all of their energy into caring for a loved one. This can result in mental distress and lead to more severe issues such as:
- Chronic fatigue
The presence of an in-home hospice caregiver can be beneficial for family members. If you know a professional is taking care of your loved one, you can take some time to relax and care for yourself.
Furthermore, the responsibility to complete everyday chores and tasks will frequently fall on family members. However, it can be overwhelming to keep track of the cooking, cleaning, and domestic tasks for multiple households, contributing to caregiver burnout.
Luckily, in addition to physical and emotional care, at-home hospice caretakers can help with housekeeping tasks like grocery shopping and meal preparation in addition to medical care.
#6 Dignity and Independence
Freedom and independence are hallmarks of adulthood that are not easily given up. In fact, the ability to take care of yourself is often tied to your dignity and outlook on life.
However, for many individuals, even those struggling with their health, it’s difficult to ask someone else for help with everyday tasks. It can be even more challenging to be asked to leave home, a place that’s comfortable and safe, to receive help.
In-home hospice care can help patients retain some self-sufficiency and freedom that may not be afforded to them in a hospital or nursing home.
#7 Time to Pursue the Things You Love
If someone has been battling illness or coping with an injury for a long time, they may not want to spend the time that they have left sitting in a hospital or nursing home. Allowing loved ones to remain in their home can provide them with an opportunity to do the things that bring them joy. This could include:
- Engaging with hobbies
- Reflecting on memories
- Visiting special places
- Reconnecting with loved ones
- Recording messages or writing letters to loved ones
Why Would a Doctor Recommend Hospice?
When some people receive a recommendation to transition to hospice care, they assume that their doctor is giving up. This is not the case at all.
There are multiple reasons that a doctor would recommend hospice care as a next step:4
- The patient’s illness is progressing despite repeated efforts to stop or slow the effects.
- Efforts to prolong the patient’s life have become stressful and exhausting
- The side effects of treatments are a greater burden than the symptoms of the illness.
- The patient does not want to spend more time in a hospital or institutional setting.
- Patients prefer to stop pursuing treatments and focus on making the most of their lives.
How Long Does Hospice Care Last?
Hospice care is typically recommended for individuals who have 6 months or less to live.1 This timeframe may differ depending on the circumstances of the patient’s illness or injury.
However, many people don’t consider hospice care as an option until their health has declined severely. Patients are frequently reluctant to stop treatment out of fear that they could be prematurely limiting their chances of recovery.
While the duration of at-home hospice caretaking depends on the patient’s individual circumstances, several additional factors influence how long someone stays in hospice care:
- A person who decides to pursue hospice care may change their mind and return to treatment.
- A patient’s condition may improve while in hospice care, leading to alternative care or curative treatment options.
When Care Matters Most, Trust the Experts at Alliance Homecare
When exploring what are the benefits of hospice care, it’s important to take your loved one’s wants and needs into consideration before making the transition from institutional healthcare.
Switching to hospice care is no small decision. Once you’ve weighed the benefits and decided to explore at-home options, you need to find a qualified professional caregiver to provide the care you or your loved one needs. To ensure your loved ones are treated with the respect and compassion that they deserve, choose Alliance Healthcare.
Alliance Homecare provides private duty nursing and home health aides for people of all ages and circumstances. In addition to hospice care services, we also specialize in at-home hospital, post-surgery, chronic illness, and respite care.
Our nurses and health aides are compassionate, professional, and responsive. But above all, we want to make sure that your loved one feels at home. Make sure your loved one is comfortable and cared for with Alliance Healthcare.
- Web MD. What Is Hospice Care? www.webmd.com/palliative-care/hospice-care/
- Alliance Homecare. Caregiving Glossary. www.alliancehomecare.com/caregiving-glossary/
- Cleveland Clinic. Caregiver Burnout. www.my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/9225-caregiver-burnout/
- Palliative Doctors. What is Hospice Care? www.palliativedoctors.org/hospice/care/