Recent studies have shown that hospice care may prolong survival as much as 29 days or more for terminally ill patients. Two studies in the Journal of Pain and Symptom Management in 2004 and 2007 reported in both cases patients who chose hospice care lived an average of one month longer than similar patients who did not choose hospice care. In addition, a new study released by the New England Journal of Medicine found that some cancer patients who received palliative care lived, on average, almost two months longer than those who received standard care. Researchers also found that patients receiving palliative care correlated a higher quality of life through the final stages of their illness. “With earlier referral to a hospice program, patients may receive care that results in better management of symptoms, leading to stabilization of their condition and prolonged survival, “ wrote the authors of the study from the New England Journal of Medicine.
“There’s an inaccurate perception among the American public that hospice means you’ve given up,” said J. Donald Schumacher, president and CEO of the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization. “Those of us who have worked in the field have seen firsthand how hospice and palliative care can improve the quality of life and indeed prolong the lives of people receiving care.”
Researchers cited several factors that may have contributed to longer life among patients who chose hospice. Patients in a weakened condition sidestep the risks of over-treatment when they make the decision to receive hospice care.
Second, hospice care usually improves the monitoring and treatment patients receive.
And primarily, the hospice model of care provides a team focused on the emotional and spiritual wellbeing, as well as the physical health of the patient.
Support and training for family caregivers are provided as well. Combined, this may increase the patient’s desire to continue living and make them feel less of a burden to family members. In total, facing end-of-life decisions is being proven to be more stable when the body is being treated in its entirety, mind and spirit.