View Full Version : Hospice Care--Can one recover?

02-06-2004, 03:04 PM
My only real experience with Hospice Care was when two of my grandparents were in it. My grandfather was suffering from cancer, and my grandmother from a stroke. Both were beyond treatment when they went in, and the nurses and staff of the Hospice units they were in afforded my grandparents comfort and dignity before they passed away. Neiother stay lasted more than a month.

While the nurses and staff were great, it is my understanding that (and I really don't mean for this to sound harsh) Hospice is where people go to die.

Today, I found out that my mother's doctors have suggested we consider Hospice care, as she is not responding at all to her chemo or other meds for leukemia.

My question is, have people recovered or improved in Hospice? Or is it really that mom's time with us is limited?


02-06-2004, 03:17 PM
Typically one of the criteria for hospice care is that the patient have a life expectancy of 6 months or less. So I imagine the majority of patients referred to hospice die within that time period, but I am sure there are cases where something extraordinary happens and the patient gets better.

02-06-2004, 03:53 PM
My experience with a Hospice is a year ago when my mother was admitted. She passed away about 5 weeks later. (Feb. 4... the anniversary of her death was just two days ago :( ).

It is difficult to get into these wondeful facilities. As romansperson says, the typical criteria for admittance is a life expectancy of 6 months or less. I did ask one of the nurses if anyone ever recovered and was released. The answer was "yes it has happened, but it is very rare."

If the nurses are suggesting Hospice care, then it sounds to me Casey1505 that your mom may be more ill than you know. I am so very sorry.

02-06-2004, 05:30 PM
Oh, Casey, I'm so sorry.

My FIL is in hospice right now...he's been in about two weeks or so. The doctors gave him about two to three months. It is my understanding that the doctor is the one to refer a patient to hospice, when there's nothing more they can do. Hospice basically means they won't have to go to the hospital anymore. The nurses will come to the house to help the caretaker.

I asked about hospice awhile ago if you want to do a search, and most of the responses were very positive. E-mail me if you need to talk.

02-06-2004, 10:26 PM
You're actually asking a couple of different questions.

On the literal sense: hospice is currently the term used in North America (possibly other places, but I don't know that for sure) for the palliative medical, psychological, and social care provided for a person who has a terminal medical condition. That is what the hospice people are trained for (and what the insurance companies will pay for).

Regarding the underlying question, "Is hospice a death sentence?":
Hospice services are generally provided (and paid for) only when a person has already been diagnosed with a terminal condition and the expectation is that he or she will die in the foreseeable future.

Of course, there are always situations in which a person beats the odds and lives longer than the medical community estimates. My neighbor's mother was in hospice a year or so ago with a life expectancy of five months. Eight months later, her hospice program suspended her participation (she can rejoin if she has a relapse) and ten months after that she is still going strong. (On the other hand, my father in law was given six months to live and died the following weekend.)

There is a lot about disease, life, and death that we still do not know. Short of a deliberate execution, we are not to the point where we can predict a specific time of death. I would recommend that you hook up with hospice right away, if for no other reason than that they have people who can deal with the kinds of questions you raise.

02-06-2004, 10:53 PM
Here (hospicefoundation.org/what_is/) is a link that answers some basic questions about hospice. Hospice is usually reserved for people with terminal illnesses, and it can be an amazing source of comfort, help, and information.

I'm sorry to hear that your mom is sick, Casey. Know that the thoughts and prayers of this Doper are with you and with her.

02-06-2004, 11:49 PM
Well, she made the decision today to go into Hospice tonight. She made the decision with a sound mind, and knows the implication.

Here is some background, briefly. About 5 years ago, she was diagnosed with leukemia. I forget the exact term, it was something like acute monoleukocitic somethingorother. I'd recocnize the term if I saw it. I don't feel like searching for a link right now, you understand... Anyway, it was described as among the worst types of leukemia you can get, and the docs gave her less than a 50% survival chance. Less than two years after her initial diagnosis, she went into remission. Her doctor called her his miracle child. Life was good. Three years, cancer free.

Shortcut to November 2003. She was diagnosed again with leukemia. Same type, and they began chemo within two days. She was able to come home for a few weeks around the holidays and live with me and my wife and son. It was better than I thought it would be. Around the beginning of January, she developed pneumonia. This made things difficult. Without chemo, she couldn't get healthy white blood cells. Without healthy white cells, she couldn't fight the pneumonia. Vicious circle.

Chemo was ineffective. The leukemia cells had slightly mutated and were immune to the two different types used.

The doctors told her that she had no healthy marrow left in her body, and that her prospects were bleak. Being in a great deal of pain, she decided that she would rather die with dignity than suffer through more rounds of ineffective treatments. We think that this was a pretty corageous decision. She is able to make the decision to live the rest of her life comfortably, and not suffering. We don't look at this decision as a death-wish, rather as a life wish. She has chosen to take a brief period of comfort and peace before she passes on, rather than months of pain and agony. This is a choice many people are not given.

My brother, uncle, and I got together tonight and basically planned her funeral. We know most of her wishes, and made a few other decisions. It was not the easiest time. My father died suddenly of a heart attack 8 years ago. He went quickly and painlessly. My mom suffers for months. Neither is easier to watch. My uncle took my grandfather to see her tonight. He made his peace and said goodbye. Tough old bird, that man. Buried the love of his life for over 60 years two years ago, and now he will be burying his daughter shortly. I can't imagne what he's feeling.

The hospice will be good. She's making the right decision. I will miss her.

02-07-2004, 12:03 AM
If you enter a hospice and unexpectedly get better, you receive 10 demerits and a letter goes into your permanent record that could damage your chances of getting into a good college.

02-07-2004, 12:04 AM
I neglected to thank those of you who conveyes well-wishes and offered prayers.

These are the things that make this message board so wonderful. You have taken time out of your lives to offer warm thoughts, commiserate with, and lend support and comfort to a total stranger.

Please know that it is deeply appreciated. Thank you.

02-07-2004, 12:34 AM
If you enter a hospice and unexpectedly get better, you receive 10 demerits and a letter goes into your permanent record that could damage your chances of getting into a good college.
Why? Why would you post that?

What told you that I might find this remotely humorous?

I open up and reveal that my mother is on her deathbed, and that's what you offer?

Your parents must be so proud of you....

02-07-2004, 08:12 AM
I am very sorry that this is happening to your family. I hope that your mother is able to get some relief from the pain she's been enduring and make the most of whatever time she has left.

02-07-2004, 08:21 AM
Kudos to your mom for being so brave. At least you have some time to prepare her final days the way she wants them.

You are in my thoughts.

02-07-2004, 08:41 AM
Casey, I am so terribly sorry for all the pain that this type of situation involves. I've lost both of my parents (my mother to cancer, and she was under hospice care at the time of her death; the hospice folks were wonderful!) My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family.

In defense of snoooopy, might I say that, for some people who are confronted with a bleak situation, humor is the defense mechanism of choice; I know this because this is the way my family (including myself) is; we were all together when we got the message that our father had died, and we spent the next hour and a half zinging around one-liners. It seemed fitting, since we all got our sense of humor from him. While I would not presume to make a joke at such a time without knowing the person intimately, and being certain that no offense would be taken, I can understand why snoooopy did it. But I, for one, am very sorry that it caused you additional distress; that's the last thing you need.

02-07-2004, 09:07 AM
I apologize.

02-07-2004, 09:30 AM
My condolences and best wishes are with you. I recently lost my wife of twenty years, and in her last two months she was under home hospice care. When she first came home from the hospital I tried to convince myself that this was a temporary measure which was being taken because our insurance wouldn't cover nursing home coverage. When I was finally able to face the reality of her situation I cannot say enough about what a help and comfort the hospice people were.

My mother had spent the last three weeks of her life in a hospital bed hooked up to machines which were doing nothing more than keeping her unconscious body alive until she had her third, and fatal, heart attack. It was hard on all of us, being unable to do anything but wait.

02-07-2004, 09:32 AM
Lurk, I'm so sorry. I've read your threads about your wife and I must say, you are a stellar man. My condolences on your loss.

02-07-2004, 10:31 AM
I apologize.
Thank you.

I apologize as well. As norinew mentioned, your heart may have been in the right place, but I failed to see it.

02-07-2004, 03:57 PM
Frankly, the both of you can go suck eggs. I woke up this morning with a splitting headache and was looking forward to kicking some Teeming Butt. When I saw Snooooopy's post my eyes lit up, but then the namby pamby apologized, Casey1505 apologized right back, and I've still got a splitting headache and no ass to kick.

Ghod, I miss the good old days. :D

02-07-2004, 06:14 PM
Well, I guess egging me on is a good way to give yourself something to do.

02-07-2004, 09:59 PM
Casey1505, I'm not sure how old you are so I will assume you are young. I'm real sorry to hear about your mother. I found the loss of my mother harder to take than my father. Maybe it's because she was the person who brought me into this world. If it's her time, don't look at Hospice as the vehicle of her death.

Hospice made my mother's passing bearable because they are in the business of making people comfortable, and that includes you. They will be able to react to changes in pain medication immediately and answer any questions you have. And you WILL have questions.

By the way, your mother may want to participate in her funeral preparations. As hard as that is, you have to be there for her. It will give her comfort to know you care.

02-07-2004, 10:16 PM
I'm 32. My birthday is next Monday.

I spent some time with her today, and she is at peace with her decision. She made plans for her funeral when my dad died in '96. She let me know where they were, what she wanted to be buried in, and where that dress was.

It's not easy, to be sure, but knowing that she made her decision with a sound mind is comforting. She is not in much pain today, and that is a relief as well. She said she's felt my dad with her in the last few days, and she seems ready. She's tying up loose ends, as far as saying goodbye to who she needs to say goodbye to, instructing our wives to take care of us ("but save some for yourself, too" is what she told my wife ;) ), and just coming to terms with everything.

We told her we were proud of her for fighting a good fight, and we said our goodbyes as well, while she was still lucid enough to understand.

So long as she's not suffering anymore... :(

02-07-2004, 10:41 PM
In case anyone didn't get it, I was kidding with my last post-it is nice to see humanity at its best behaviour at times like this.
What is also nice is that your mother, by taking control of the end of her life, has shown all of us that "grace under pressure" is much more that a trite phrase. Is there a favorite charity of hers that I might give a contribution to on her behalf?

02-07-2004, 11:24 PM
My father spent the last 3 weeks of his life in Hospice and the nurses there were wonderful to him. The hospice program really goes try to make the stuation as easy on family and friends as they can, they brought in extra beds so my mother and I could spend the night with him, and would take care of just about anything they could do for him. One thing that almost amazed me was the contrast between the cold, uncomfortable hospital room that we had been in previously and how personable and comfortable they try to make the atmosphere for the ill and grieving. I hope that the hospice is as good to you and your mother as it was to my family. Your mother and yourself are in my prayers.

02-08-2004, 10:26 AM
Is there a favorite charity of hers that I might give a contribution to on her behalf?
Not a particular one that I'm aware of. I'm sure she'd be honored to know that a gift was given to the American Cancer Society (or a Cancer Society type place in your homeland) or a local Hospice Care unit, in her memory.

Thank you, sir.

02-08-2004, 03:54 PM
Casey1505, my aunt's funeral was a week and a half ago. She spent not quite four months in a hospice here in Topeka. Wonderful place, wonderful staff.

As other posters have mentioned, one the the criteria at hers was that a doctor had stated formally that a prospective resident had under six months to live. I was the family memeber who got the information on the hospice so my Dad and his sister could make the decision. At first he was reluctant, actually saying, "That's where people go to die." But Dad knows that death isn't the end for people, just a beginning, and when he saw how well she was treated, and how much better she told him she felt for a while, he was happy for her.

It's going to really suck sometimes, but you mom will be getting fine care I am sure, and knowing she is being made comfortable will make you feel better too. You are going to need all your strength soon. I am sorry for you, keep us posted on how she and you are doing.

02-09-2004, 09:30 AM
As other posters have mentioned, one the the criteria at hers was that a doctor had stated formally that a prospective resident had under six months to live. I was the family memeber who got the information on the hospice so my Dad and his sister could make the decision. At first he was reluctant, actually saying, "That's where people go to die." My father had the identical reaction. It was difficult for him to come to the realization that it was time. It was an emotional Rubicon for him to cross.

As I read the responses in this thread, I am struck by the universal praise of Hospice personnel. I get choked up and my eyes water as I think about my mom's last weeks in the Hospice. Not out of sadness, though there is enough of that. I get emotional with gratitude.

The Hospice staff are angels on earth. Not only to ease the pain and suffering of the dying, but also to ease the pain and suffering of the other family members. They are gentle but determined. They are knowledgeable and compassionate. And every person I talked to, from the receptionist to the nurses, said they absolute loved what they do for a living.

Casey, I again offer my sympathy.

02-10-2004, 01:45 PM
Thank you all for your responses and comforting wishes.

Lavergne Casey passed on quietly, peacefully, bravely, and surrounded by friends this morning at around 11:15 AM.

It was an honor to spend my life in the presence of such a great woman.

02-10-2004, 02:00 PM
I don't know how I missed this thread.

Paul, I'm sorry. I'm glad you got to say goodbye and I know her memory will be strong with you and your family from now on.

02-10-2004, 02:07 PM
I'm so sorry. {{{{{Casey and family}}}}}

02-10-2004, 02:07 PM
Here I am, getting choked up again.

I am sorry for your loss Casey. Having recently gone through it myself, I know a little bit about how you feel.

May you find comfort in the warm memories. I can only offer sympathy to you and your family during this difficult time.

Peace be with you.

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