What Should You Do After A Relative Has Declined Treatment For A Terminal Illness?

by Brent Woods

If a parent or other loved one has declined treatment for a terminal illness, you may be wondering about the next steps in this process. When should you seek hospice care for your relative? What will this care involve, and how will your relative pay for hospice or other palliative care? Read on to learn more about what hospice workers can do to help keep your relative comfortable in his or her last days. 

When should you seek hospice care?

If your relative has been diagnosed with any illness that will result in death even with treatment, he or she may have declined any life-extending options and simply opted to spend his or her last days at home with family, or traveling to check off "bucket list" items. Although you may associate hospice care with treatment during the last few days of life, this care can begin as soon as your relative has been diagnosed as terminal. 

What will hospice workers do?

When you first contact hospice, workers may come to your relative's home (or your home, if you're planning to provide care) and talk to your relative about what he or she would like from the process. This can include pain management under the care of a hospice physician, spiritual counseling or other therapies to help cope with the death process, and personal care that can include assistance with bathing and meals. 

In some cases, your relative may not yet need these services, and may choose to live out the next few weeks or months as normally as possible. Still, by forging a relationship with a hospice provider, your relative will be able to receive customized, immediate care whenever he or she needs it. 

How can your relative pay for hospice care?

In many cases, hospice care in your area may be covered by your relative's health insurance or Medicare, if your relative is over age 65. Once your relative has been diagnosed as terminal, you may want to get a durable power of attorney so that you can help your relative make financial and medical decisions once he or she is no longer able to do so. 

If your relative's health insurance won't cover this care, he or she may be able to enter into an arrangement with the hospice facility to allow the facility to collect from your relative's estate after death. This can allow your relative to receive the palliative care he or she needs without stressing about financial matters.