Can short hospice enrollment be long enough? Comparing the perspectives of hospice professionals and family caregiversedit
Objective: Hospice utilization lasting for 2 weeks or less before death is considered “short.” Short, late-stage hospice admissions have been viewed as inadequate for providing end-stage symptom management, maximal comfort, and a comprehensive focus on life closure and as an underutilization of the Medicare Hospice Benefit. The purpose of this study was to explore psychosocial dynamics during late-stage hospice admissions by comparing the perspectives of hospice professionals and family caregivers. Salutogenic principles and concepts from Antonovsky’s Sense of Coherence Theory (SOC) guided the inquiry. Methods: This exploratory, descriptive study involved a developmental design. First, hospice professionals’ perspectives about psychosocial dynamics commonly observed in late-stage admissions were gathered. Themes were distilled into a Psychosocial Factors Checklist (PFC). Second, interviews that incorporated open-ended questions and the PFC were conducted with 56 family caregivers of hospice patients who died from cancer within 2 weeks of admission. Participant responses were transcribed and entered into Atlas ti software for data management and coding. Responses to the PFC were clustered around the SOC constructs (manageability, comprehensibility, meaningfulness) to create corresponding subscales. Interitem correlations were conducted to explore the associations among items. Results: Late-stage admissions were a crisis (54%), chaotic (43%), emotional (80%), and a time of open communication (80%) and meaningful conversations (73%). Hospice utilization was “just long enough” (49%) and “too short” (49%). The Manageability subscale (M = 4.09) suggested that caregivers experienced moderate difficulty. Manageability included physical challenges, emotional responses, informational needs, and benefits/resources. Comprehensibility emerged from medical results, visual signs, and hospice guidance. Meaningfulness was personal-individual, family-shared, and spiritual-existential. Significance of results: Hospice professionals and caregivers view late-stage admissions differently; they are a crisis for some but not all families. The development of a quick assessment tool for late-stage admissions has the potential for meaningful and effective intervention when time is of the essence.