When is the right time for hospice care?


When treatment focus shifts to comfort care and you determine that the patient’s life expectancy is six months or less, it is time for a hospice referral. Hospice care is not just for those patients who are close to death. In fact, the more time a patient can receive hospice care, the more benefit they and their family will receive.

Two physicians must agree that the patient has a prognosis of six months or less. One of those physicians can be the hospice medical director. A good starting point is to ask yourself if you would be surprised if the patient lived for another year. If you would be surprised, then contacting hospice should be the next step.

Hospice is for patients of all ages and is appropriate for a variety of life-limiting illnesses, including, but not limited to, the following conditions:

  • Alzheimer’s Disease and other forms of dementia
  • Heart Disease
  • Lung Disease
  • Cancer
  • Liver or kidney failure
  • Neurological disorders, such as Parkinson’s disease or ALS.
  • Comorbidities

For more detailed guidelines related to specific diseases, view our criteria for hospice appropriateness or contact our office for more information.

General indicators for hospice care include:

  • Increased or uncontrolled pain
  • Progressive weight loss
  • Decline in ability to perform activities of daily living
  • Frequent infections, emergency room visits or hospitalizations
  • Progressive decline despite curative interventions
  • Increased weakness or fatigue
  • Withdrawal, confusion or inability to get out of bed
  • Poor nutritional status

Hospice staff are available to provide an assessment and informational visit, free of charge and with no obligations, for patients who are considering hospice care. We are also available as a resource for you if you need help in determining if hospice is the right choice for your patient and if it is the right time. Please call our office at (763) 531-2424 and we will gladly assist you.