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Should mesothelioma patients enter hospice care?

At a certain point during your treatment for mesothelioma, you may be asked if you want to start receiving palliative care in hospice. This can be a loaded question for mesothelioma patients and their families, as some may feel that the patient has given up all hope.

But as none of us get out of life alive, when making your decision, it's important to understand the philosophy behind hospice care.

Hospice is focused on delivering a quality of life that doesn't focus on the number of days, weeks or months someone has left. No one can predict that accurately anyway. Those in hospice receive compassionate, humane care that enables them to be as comfortable as they can while they participate in life as fully as they are able, right up to the end.

There are criteria for entering hospice care, which may differ slightly between different hospice providers. In general, patients are not expected to live longer than six months to a year, and they must no longer be actively seeking curative treatments like radiation or chemotherapy.

Patients who enter hospice but have a change of heart are free to leave and pursue active treatments for their mesothelioma at any time. It's an open-ended decision.

Hospice care can be given anywhere, although the two most common sites are in the patient's home and at special hospice facilities. While hospice patients are not being treated for their terminal conditions, some symptoms may require brief hospital stays, and hospice care can continue there as well.

Hospice treatment focuses on alleviating pain and managing the symptoms effectively to allow patients to enjoy their "good" days spent with loved ones, doing as much as they feel up to doing. Those who are spiritually inclined can receive support and guidance by a spiritual advisor, but that is not mandatory.

At some point, you may decide to allow hospice personnel to join your team of trusted providers. They can work with your doctor to devise the best plan of care and even assist you with drafting certain legal documents you may need regarding your care. Your mesothelioma attorney can meet with you and a hospice representative to discuss your intentions regarding the proceeds of any settlement you may receive.

Source: American Cancer Society, "Hospice Care," accessed Dec. 02, 2016

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