How Long Does the Average Hospice Patient Live?
Hospice care begins when someone has six months or less to live. To qualify for hospice, the patient must not seek any treatment to cure their disease.
But how long do they live?
How Long Do Hospice Patients Live?
It’s impossible to give an average or a number because there are simply too many variables.
Hospice patients have an extensive variety of illnesses. While most hospice patients have cancer, hospice does help those who have other life-limiting diseases. These diseases include AIDS, kidney failure, end-stage heart disease, ALS and others.
In many cases, how long a hospice patient lives depends upon three factors:
- The type of disease they have
- How far their disease has progressed
- How long they waited to receive hospice care
Let’s take a closer look at #3 for a minute.
When to Call Hospice
As we’ve mentioned elsewhere on this site, hospice is for those who have six months or less to live. They must also have agreed to no longer seek treatment for their diseases.
But many don’t contact hospice early enough.
In fact, many wait several months before calling hospice.
Still others think that hospice is only for the last few weeks of life, and they don’t call until they have less than a few weeks to live.
That is one of the main reasons there’s a huge misconception about hospice. This misconception is that people die faster in hospice. That is simply not true. Some patients do not live long under hospice care because they did not start hospice care until they were in the latest stages of their illness.
In fact, some patients actually live longer than expected when under hospice care.
This is why it is so important to contact hospice as soon as you receive your diagnosis so a care plan can be put in place to help you. If not, you’ll miss some of the great benefits hospice has to offer, including home visits, pain relief and family support.
How Long Is Hospice Care?
The length of hospice care depends upon the length of the patient’s life-limiting illness. However, hospice care is only for those who have six months or less to live, so therefore, six months is generally the longest that hospice care will last.
Can You Leave Hospice Care?
Actually, you can.
Some patients live longer than expected, in which case, they may leave hospice care. If their condition worsens and their prognosis again gives them six months or less to live, they may return to hospice care.
In certain cases, patients change their mind and decide to get treatment for their disease. As a reminder, hospice is only comfort care, not curative care. This means that the goal of hospice is to provide symptom relief, not cure the illness.
Some patients start hospice care and then decide to seek curative treatment. Again, they may leave hospice, but if, at some point they want to return, they may.
Remember that hospice care is always the patient’s choice.
However, it’s important to keep in mind that if you leave hospice services, you will no longer receive the advantages of the Medicare hospice benefit. This may include home medical equipment, supplies, therapeutic services or home visits.
According to the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization, there are several reasons why patients may be discharged from hospice care. These include:
- The patient’s illness is no longer life-limiting
- The patient transfers to another hospice
- The patient decides not to receive hospice care
Your local hospice will be able to provide you with additional information that you can use.
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