Transitioning in Hospice Care
It can be hard to talk about death. But it's important. Hospice care is generally offered to those expected to have six months or less to live, and we believe in making every moment count, offering support, practical help, respect and comfort to those in our care. That doesn't mean we don't talk about death, or that we ignore it- on the contrary, one of our key service areas is spiritual and psychological rather than just physical. We help patients and their loved ones understand and prepare for death, so that they can make the most of their remaining time without fear or regret.
At Center for Hospice Care, hospice is all about living as fully and richly as possible, but there comes a point when we have let families and loved ones know that a patient will soon pass on. In hospice care, this time is sometimes known as 'transitioning'.
How long does a transitioning patient have?
Different hospices use 'transitioning' in different ways, so it's important to be clear. If told that you or someone you care for is transitioning, don't be afraid to ask how long the process is likely to last- or any other questions you might have. For some, a transitioning patient might have a few days, for others a few weeks.
Our nurses, doctors, and other caregivers will always try and answer your questions to the best of their availability. If they can't answer, they can help you find the right person to ask.
What should loved ones expect?
As human beings, our lives are as different as could be from beginning to end. Everyone's journey is unique. Hospice providers like us do everything in our power to make a patient's final days comfortable and meaningful, but both comfort and meaning can take different forms.
However, many patients do have things in common during their transitioning phase. Almost everyone wants to see their loved ones before they go. Those that can often have things they've been waiting to say- even those who have spent some time in hospice care. Close to death, patients often stop wanting food or even water, as the body shuts down and no longer needs nourishment.
When someone you know is transitioning in hospice care
We always try and make sure wishes that patients may have for their funeral arrangements and their estate are sorted out as early as possible, so that such concerns don't have to intrude on the last days they have to enjoy with friends and family.
The transitioning phase doesn't mean life is over. It means that it's time to say the things you need to say a person you love, and to spend as much quality time with them as possible. It might also be time for those who live further away to make a last visit and those close by to make a special effort. Let all those who need to say a final goodbye.