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Talking to Your Patients About Hospice

Talking Points for Starting the Hospice Conversation

While you are not able to predict when a patient will die, as a medical professional you know when hospice care may be the best course to take for their care. However, broaching the topic of hospice care with patients can be difficult because of many stigmas surrounding hospice. The following are a few ways you can begin the hospice conversation and discuss it with patients while respecting their dignity.

Ask “What do you understand about your illness?”
This is a good place to start. It gives you a chance to hear a patient say what they understand about what is going on with their health. It also gives you a chance to help them better understand the prognosis, as well as gauge how they feel about their own health.

What if my patient asks me a tough question?
“How long do I have?” or “Is it cancer” are questions many physicians fear. However, open and honest conversations are always best. You can also try reflective listening, which reflects the question back to the patient. When asked a difficult question, try responding with the following: “Is that what you’ve been thinking?” “What have you been told already?” “How long are you hoping for?” or “Why have you asked me that just now?”

Ask open-ended questions
These open up communication to more thoughtful conversations instead of “yes” or “no” answers. Stick to “what,” “why,” “when” and “how.”

Be prepared to listen more than speak
When it comes to talking about hospice, you need to know where your patient’s mind is at. This requires that you actively listen to them and answer their questions to the best of your ability. Remember, we are always here as a resource for you too.

Discuss the benefits of hospice
There are many myths and misconceptions about hospice care, so explaining the benefits of hospice may be helpful. Be sure to touch on:

  • Hospice is about gaining control over the remainder of life, not giving up
  • Hospice is about improving comfort and quality of life
  • Hospice care can be done at home, a nursing home or wherever they call home
  • Bereavement and grief support are available for their family members and friends

Cedar Valley Hospice understands that conversations are not always simple, but these talking points should be kept in mind. Most importantly, remember your patients may be apprehensive, anxious or afraid of what the future holds. Maintaining respect for their humanity and truly listening to their concerns and feelings is important in any conversation about their health, and can go a long way.

For any further questions regarding your patients and hospice, contact Cedar Valley Hospice today. You can also refer patients easily online.