People often associate hospice care with dying. However, what many don’t realize is that choosing hospice care can improve end of life. The basic premise of hospice care is all about easing pain and suffering, rather than focusing on curative treatments. Sadly, many seniors are referred to hospice just days or weeks before their death. In this case, it’s hard for hospice to have a meaningful impact. The dying process can be hard to go through and to watch. Yet it is something we will all have to face one day. By utilizing hospice care earlier on, much of the pain and suffering can be diminished.

The Washington Post describes a study led by professor of geriatrics, Thomas Michael Gill. This particular study found that the majority of participants only utilized hospice care during their final two weeks of life. They usually had little benefits, and suffered more than necessary. But by contrast, those who involved it during their last year had significant decreases in common symptoms such as pain, nausea, depression, and shortness of breath.

So how would you know when the right time to choose hospice care is? This question can be tricky and even impossible to predict. Yet people with terminal illnesses should be having ongoing discussions with their providers about goals and priorities. Often when people decide to start hospice, it’s because they are more interested in the quality of their remaining days, rather than the quantity.

Many people have found profound improvements in the quality of their life by utilizing this form of care. It’s certainly never a pleasant topic to discuss. Whether it’s regarding you or your loved one, it’s usually not something we want to think about. But leaving the conversation to the last minute is probably not wise. As with many parts of senior care, planning ahead and knowing your options can ease the burdens later on.