Experts agree that the time to learn about hospice is before a lifelimiting illness occurs. This greatly reduces stress, should the time come when hospice services may be needed. Moreover, the earlier hospice is involved, the more it can make the patient's final days, weeks and months as comfortable and satisfying as possible.
Ideally, everyone should make their views about end-of-life care known to their families long before any illness strikes. They should also take a few simple steps to ensure that their wishes are followed if and when a crisis does occur. This involves drawing up:
a living will of written instructions to make known what you want done if, for example, you are seriously ill and the only way you can be kept alive is by artificial means; and
a durable power of attorney, which authorizes a person of your choosing (usually a spouse or close relative) to make decisions for you if you become unable to do so for yourself.
Because every state has different laws, you may wish to consult a lawyer about these documents. In them, you may want to indicate that if you are diagnosed with a life-limiting illness, your preference is to receive hospice care.