Recognizing When It’s Time for Hospice: A Guide for Hudson Valley Families - Hospice of Orange & Sullivan
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Recognizing When It’s Time for Hospice: A Guide for Hudson Valley Families

End-of-Life care is never an easy topic to discuss. Conversations are often had well after a patient could have begun benefitting from hospice. While such delays in care are due partly to families not knowing how to broach the subject, it can also be a challenge to recognize the physical and nonphysical signs a loved one might be entering the end-stage of life. Many common indicators can be attributed to a variety of causes, but if a patient has a life-limiting, terminal condition and a prognosis of 6 months or fewer to live, these symptoms likely mean it is time to have the hospice conversation.

Being able to recognize the physical, mental, and emotional changes that indicate it may be time for hospice can allow Hudson Valley families to be proactive in getting a loved one the care they need. Here are signs one might notice while spending time with a patient who has reached end-of-life:

Cognitive Changes

A cognitive decline can mean it’s time to consider hospice care. You may notice increased lapses in memory and concentration. This includes forgetting to take medications or having trouble focusing on simple tasks. Frequent mood swings or bouts of agitation may also indicate a larger problem. While it’s true these patterns also match dementia and Alzheimer’s disease (themselves terminal conditions), it should be remembered that “dementia” is the clinical term for impairment of cognitive function and can indicate an overall decline in wellness.

Changes in cognition can complicate decision making regarding end-of-life care. Read more about special considerations for end-stage patients with dementia, here.’s%20body,choices%20about%20their%20health%20care

Medical Changes

Increased frequency of trips to the hospital or ER are a significant sign of declining health. Hospice care may be the answer if a patient has stopped responding to curative treatments. Such repeat trips and changes in surroundings can create undue agitation in patients, the stress of which can worsen overall condition. Through hospice, regular medical care can be administered along with end-of-life care in the comfort of familiar surroundings, reducing the need for the patient to be transported.

Behavioral Changes

Behavioral patterns and routines provide stability in our lives, so any deviations from those habits should be noted. If someone lacks interest in activities they usually enjoy or appears withdrawn during conversation with family and friends, a larger problem may be looming. As with cognitive changes, mood swings and increased confusion or restlessness are also signs to watch for when monitoring behavior.

Physical Changes

One of the most common signs to monitor is any significant weight loss or reduced appetite. Unintended weight loss could be the result of difficulties associated with eating, drinking, and physical activity. Sleep issues are also a common toward end-of-life and can be symptomatic of conditions like hypertension or diabetes.

One of the most challenging aspects of supporting someone nearing the end of their life is determining when specialized care is needed. This is precisely why it is important to be able to recognize significant changes in your loved ones. Our staff focuses on improving quality of life through treating symptoms and maximizing comfort rather than continuing to pursue curative treatments after a patient has stopped responding. If you or a loved one is considering hospice care, please visit or contact us at 845-561-6111.