When most people think of a senior in need of hospice, they think of physical impairment of some sort, such as a traumatic brain injury, cancer, or complications from a fall. Home hospice certainly provides medical and daily care assistance to those who have suffered physical trauma. However, an elderly’s mental health can also precipitate the need for hospice care, whether as part of a condition such as Alzheimer’s or as the result of being faced with the need for hospice care. Mental health is indeed an important part of our overall health because it can affect a person’s physical well-being or health. Just like any other physical illness or injury, mental illness requires diagnosis and treatment. Hospice can help.
What is Mental Health?
Mental health includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being; it affects how we think, feel, and act. Mental health helps determine how we handle ourselves in certain situations such as stress, how to relate to others, and it helps us make decisions. Mental health issues are very common, especially in those in Hospice Care.
Types of Mental Illness
There are many different types of mental illness that senior citizens can suffer from, including but not limited to:
- Anxiety Disorders: General anxiety issues, panic disorders, social anxiety, and phobias
- Mood Disorders: Depression, bipolar disorder, and cyclothymic disorders
- Psychotic Disorders: Hallucinations and schizophrenia
- Eating Disorders: Anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating disorders
- Impulse Control and Addiction Disorders: Alcohol abuse, drug abuse, and gambling problems
- Personality Disorders: Antisocial personality disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and paranoid personality disorder
This list above does not equate to the very many mental health issues and disorders the elderly may encounter. Keeping patients happy and safe is the main goal when in Hospice Care and it is truly important for their doctor to diagnose mental health issues and help them in any way they can to cope.
Hospice care is specialized care that focuses on the quality of life for people and their caregivers who are experiencing an advanced, life-altering illness. Hospice care provides a safe, comforting, accommodating, and compassionate atmosphere for people in the last stages of life or with an incurable disease, so that they may live as fully and comfortably as possible.
A Caring Team
Someone’s hospice care team should support the patient’s treatment, regardless of the mental illness he or she suffers. A qualified team of support will aid to the patient’s mental struggles as well as their physical ailments. Each patient will receive care per their hospice plan which supports the individual’s treatment and management of daily life as they live through hospice.
It is very important to understand that many hospice care patients suffer from mental health issues. For instance, about 15%-20% of terminally ill patients suffer from and are diagnosed with major depression, and 25% of elderly depressed patients changed their decisions about end-of-life interventions after treatment in hospice care.
What Happens When Mental Health is not Addressed in Hospice
When someone’s mental health is not properly supported, it can create a devastating ripple effect for them in their life. This includes but is not limited to:
- Family and relationship issues
- Social isolation
- Decreased enjoyment of life
- Misuse of tobacco, alcohol, and drugs
- Difficulting thriving
- Legal and financial challenges
- Self-harm or harm to others
- Physical health issues such as heart disease, high blood pressure, a weakened immune system, asthma, obesity, gastronomical matters, and more
All of these issues can complicate life and the treatment path for any hospice patient. It is very important to establish treatment for both the condition they require hospice for, and for the mental health issues they may be struggling with.
If a patient were in the best-case scenario, they may already have a treatment set in place for their mental health before coming to hospice care. Meaning hospice can continue their already-working treatments for the mental health issues they may be experiencing. However, not all patients are in this type of situation and will require some extra effort in their hospice care. Some may change their minds a lot as well as revoke hospice care. Because of this, it is important to receive a proper diagnosis so a treatment plan can be established as soon as possible.
Meet Patients Where They Are
In hospice care, it is highly important to meet people where they are; meaning hospice needs to respect the choices and circumstances patients are in, in their life. We need to work with them according to their mental, physical, and emotional capabilities and limitations.
One of the toughest things in hospice mental health is for the team to establish if something a patient is going through is truly a mental health issue, or if it is a symptom of their physical illness or a medication side effect. Hospice care and mental health are not one size fits all, every care plan is tailored to each patient, and is changed over time to adapt to changes patients may go through in their hospice care journey.
The Intersect of Hospice Care and Mental Health
As you have read above both hospice care and mental health care are very important for every patient. Working closely with their doctors, patients will be able to feel comfortable in their care and well-being.
Mental health is an issue all over the world in all age groups, however, mental health for hospice care patients seems to have been overlooked in the past. Patients and their family members need to communicate how they’re feeling, how interactions impact their everyday life in hospice, and inform their doctor if they feel differently on any given day. Hospice care is a very important life-changing option, and combining this with mental health care can make all the difference for anyone.