When do you call in hospice?

A fellow caregiver asked...

When is it time to call in hospice? Is hospice only for end of life care, or could I use it sooner?



Expert Answer

Barbara Repa, a Caring.com senior editor, is an attorney, a journalist specializing in aging issues, and the author of Your Rights in the Workplace (Nolo), now in its 10th edition.

Hospice care is by definition reserved for terminally ill patients, who can no longer benefit from traditional medical care and are most in want of care that keeps them as comfortable and free of pain in their final days as possible. In fact, most hospice services require a doctor's certification that death is likely to occur within six months before they will make their services available.

But it sounds as if you're feeling the real need for some type of help in caring for your parent. If your mother or father doesn't qualify for hospice care, consider other forms of help, including:

  • Home care, which includes assistance with the activities of daily living such as bathing, dressing, and walking
  • Home health care, which involves skilled nursing or therapy services
  • Adult day health care, for people who need treatment for multiple, chronic health conditions as an alternative to entering some type of skilled nursing facility, or
  • Adult day care centers, which provide personal care and social activities -- along with daytime supervision and a variety of social and support services.

The specific services available and the types of care they can provide vary dramatically. You may best begin a search for local services the old-fashioned way: by looking in the telephone book under "Adult Care."