Sometimes it's hard to know when the time has come to consider "comfort care" rather than more aggressive treatment. Here are some questions to ponder:
If the patient is still receiving treatment, does it seem that the treatment is no longer helping or working?
Has the doctor said something like: "there's no further treatment" or "we've run out of medical options" or "now we'll focus on keeping you comfortable"? These are phrases that indicate the doctor feels the condition is not "curable".
Will the treatment prolong the patient's life or will it only postpone the inevitable?
Is it possible that the patient is ready to die, but the family is not ready to let go?
Has the patient expressed his wishes and made it clear that those concerns have been on his mind?
Is the patient consistently short of breath?
Is the patient unable to eat?
Is the patient very fatigued?
Is the patient sleeping a lot?
Is the patient experiencing increasing pain? Needing to take more medication to keep the pain under control?
Is the patient able to dress himself? Toilet? Bathe/shower?
Do you notice a subtle disinterest, withdrawing or "disconnecting" from life/family/friends?
Is it becoming increasingly difficult for the support person / caregiver to take care of the patient? Is more help needed?
Are financial issues becoming increasingly difficult?
If you answer "yes" to five or more of these questions, it's probably time to consider hospice care.
Hospice doesn't mean "giving up", but rather changing the focus of care. Hospice care is another treatment option when cure is no longer possible.