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We at Burzynski Elder Law often encourage our chronically ill clients to consider obtaining a hospice consult. We are fortunate in Collier County to have two excellent hospice options: Avow and Vitas Healthcare. Both hospices offer invaluable support for both the patient and families throughout the end-of-life process. Hospice care is a Medicare benefit. Sometimes our clients or their families resist hospice because they may be concerned that getting hospice involved will be depressing for the patient or that hospice will expedite death. However, a recent study supports our belief that hospice improves the end-of-life experience at least for cancer patients and their families.

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The Journal of Clinical Oncology just published the results of a study done by researchers at Harvard Medical School and the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston to determine whether hospice use by patients with cancer is associated with their families’ perceptions of patients’ symptoms, goal attainment, and quality end-of-life care.

The study included 2,307 families (some of whom used hospice services and some of whom did not) who were interviewed after the death of their loved one. Families of patients enrolled in hospice more often reported that the patients received “just the right amount” of pain medicine and also reported that the patient’s end-of-life wishes were followed. Importantly, families of patients who received more than 30 days of hospice care reported the highest quality of end-of-life outcomes.

In our experience, hospice is too often only considered in the final days of the end-of-life process. Hospice is available to patients long before the final days and better outcomes are achieved when hospice has a chance to provide the panoply of services to the patient and their family. If you, or a loved one is experiencing pain or discomfort due to a chronic health condition, it may be wise to have a conversation with your doctor regarding obtaining a hospice consult.