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How to Have the Hospice Conversation With the Doctor

how to have the hospice conversation with the doctor

If your loved one is fighting a severe illness, they may have to undergo increasingly taxing treatments which can only delay the progression of their disease. Hospice care can allow your loved one to make a better use of their health than an extended hospital stay. It can also provide both of you with the resources to cope with their mortality. Choosing hospice care means your loved one will cease treatment for their illness, so it’s important to learn all they can about it before making a decision. Unfortunately, home hospice is not an options until your loved one’s doctor recommends it. You can move this process forward by starting the hospice conversation with the doctor.

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Hospice Is a Difficult Conversation

Talking with your loved one about hospice care can be difficult, because it often means discussing death. However, the sooner you talk with your loved one about their options, the better. Their doctor might share your same concerns, and may wait to recommend hospice care until it is clear that further treatment will have no effect. By this time, your loved one may be in poor health with just a few weeks to live, robbing them of the benefits of hospice care and the chance for you to say goodbye to them.

How to Have the Hospice Conversation With the Doctor

Some doctors are hesitant to discuss hospice care with their patients for a variety of reasons, so it could benefit you and your love one to take the initiative.

Make Priorities Known

Your doctor will prioritize your loved one’s well-being, which often means they are focused on providing them with ongoing treatment and care. Unfortunately, this also means that they may not recommend hospice care until it is clear that further treatment cannot help. By this time, the disease may have progressed to the point where your loved one has significantly reduced functions.

Your doctor needs to know early on about your loved one’s intentions. If they would rather live at home and find ways to reduce their pain than undergo hospital treatment, your doctor can help you and your loved one find the right hospice. Once your loved one is ready for hospice, they likely have a limited amount of time anyway, making it all the more important to act early.

Clarify End-of-Life Wishes

If your loved one knows they are facing death, they may prepare for it by creating advanced directives for their doctor clear end-of-life wishes. This could be the perfect time to bring up the idea of home hospice with your loved one’s doctor. At this point, your loved one will still have much of their health intact, meaning the doctor may be hesitant to recommend it until your loved one’s health declines. If it seems like further treatment won’t succeed in curing your loved one, it can be advantageous to suggest home hospice care earlier so that the doctor can shed light on the effectiveness of any ongoing treatment.

Related: Discussing End of Life Care Options with a Terminally Ill Relative


Ask for a Prognosis

Your doctor will be able to provide recommendations on hospice care. In general, it is only recommended once a patient is believed to have only 6 months to live. As mentioned previously, some doctors hesitate before making this prognosis, but being open about hospice as a possibility may help the process. The sooner your doctor can make a recommendation for your loved one, the more time you’ll have to arrange for any ongoing care, including pain management. You’ll also be able to find another doctor if your loved one’s current physician won’t be able to care for them any longer.

Ask the Doctor About Pain Management

Your loved one will likely experience pain from their illness during home hospice, though it may be less than what they would experience with continued treatment. Ask the doctor about options available for pain management during home hospice. Your loved one can decide if they would prefer to be medicated or if they would rather deal with the pain and remain lucid as much as possible. The doctor may suggest other options which can increase your loved one’s quality of life.

Learn About Your Options

Your loved one will have plenty of time to review their end-of-life care options if you ask about hospice care early. Choosing hospice care usually means your loved one is stopping treatment for their illness and is accepting that nature will run its course. It’s tempting to see it as a defeat, but it can often be the best decision possible given the circumstances.

Related: Hospice Is Not About Death; It’s About Life


You and your loved one can obtain closure and obtain the material support they need to live better in their finals days. Starting the conversation about hospice care with your loved one’s doctor early is the best way to make these things happen.

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