Get Early Care for Someone with a Life-Limiting or Terminal Illness

Hospice care should be considered for anyone with a life-limiting or terminal illness. It is not a place to go when you have given up or only for the last days of life. Hospice is a program that helps patients and their families live as fully, comfortably and independently as they can – when curative treatment is no longer possible.

A care team meets patients’ and families’ physical, psychological, social and spiritual needs. Patients and families need to take advantage of this entitlement to care and not wait until the last few weeks of life.

Sadly, many people only receive hospice care in their last days.

Many healthcare providers have misconceptions about hospice care, and think they can only refer when a patient is near death. Sadly, many people only receive hospice care in their last days.

Patients receive the most benefit when referred early to hospice care. Persons with life-threatening illnesses should talk with their doctor early in their illness about options for treatment and end of-life care. Every patient is entitled to – and deserves months of hospice care!

Healthcare providers often underestimate the amount and kinds of information patients desire. Physicians often want to talk about diagnosis and treatment, whereas patients want information about the potential impact on their lives.

Avoiding Discussions About Hospice Care Can Increases Loneliness and Feeling of Abandonment

Most people with a terminal illness know they are not going to survive. Avoiding discussions about poor prognosis and hospice care increases their sense of loneliness and abandonment, and denies them opportunities for meaningful conversations about death-related issues.

Studies show hospice and palliative care may actually increase survival time and quality of life. A 2007 study in the Journal of Pain and Symptom Management found that patients with congestive heart failure lived an average of 81 days longer when they had hospice care than those who did not. Other diseases also showed longer survival including lung cancer (39 days longer), pancreatic cancer (21 days longer), and colon cancer (33 days longer).

The goal of hospice and palliative care is increased quality of life. A 2010 study in the New England Journal of Medicine showed that palliative care interventions may also prolong life. The study demonstrated that patients receiving palliative care experienced better quality of life, lower rates of depression and an additional 2.7 months survival.

You Don’t Have to Wait for Your Doctor to Make a Referral

When you or your loved one is experiencing a life-limiting condition, don’t wait for your doctor to make a referral. Know that you have the right to request hospice care. You are entitled to the hospice Medicare benefit; don’t wait until the last minute to access it!

Remember, it is always up to you to discuss hospice as a choice with your doctor.

Be informed, so you can be together.


Since 1980, Lower Cape Fear LifeCare (formerly Lower Cape Fear Hospice) has served patients and their families throughout southeastern North Carolina, serving patients where they live – in their homes, hospitals, assisted living and skilled nursing facilities. For more information on how to start the conversation about hospice, please call 1-800-733-1476.