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Ask the Expert

Hospice adapts as needs change

Published February 28, 2006

The "Ask the Expert'' column is written by a member of the University of South Florida's Collaborative on Aging, a group of faculty members involved in research on aging, ranging from basic science to public policy analysis.

How do I know whether my father, who is having symptoms from his lung cancer, is ready for hospice care?

The decision to enter hospice care is important because hospice services can have significant impacts on quality of life.

If your father is having symptoms that need management, such as shortness of breath or pain, hospice or palliative care may be useful options. If his condition improves considerably, he can be discharged from hospice and go back into curative care.

Unfortunately, many cancer patients and their families delay entering hospice care until death is near. Patients who take advantage of six months of care are better able to form trusting relationships with hospice staff, who may visit their homes several times a week.

In short, hospices enhance the quality of the patient's remaining life and the quality of life for the family prior to and following death.

A referral to hospice can be made by the patient, physician, family member or friend. Once the referral is made, hospice will contact the physician to ensure that the patient is eligible for services. Hospice will then take over all expenses related to the illness. And when your father dies, bereavement services will be provided free for your family.

Susan C. McMillan is a professor of Oncology Quality of Life Nursing at the University of South Florida in Tampa, where she coordinates the master's program in oncology nursing.

[Last modified February 28, 2006, 10:03:23]

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