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Hospice Eligibility for Stroke Patients

Elderly stroke patient and their caregiver

Hospice Eligibility for Stroke Patients

Some of the most common misconceptions about hospice care involve when it’s appropriate for a patient to elect hospice services and what diagnoses qualify a patient for hospice. People often assume hospice is only for cancer patients, but that is simply not true. You may be surprised to learn that stroke patients also qualify for hospice services.

What is a Stroke?

Strokes are the number five cause of death and a leading cause if disability in the United States. A stroke is defined as a disease that impacts the arteries leading to and within the brain. It occurs when a blood vessel that carries oxygen and nutrients to the brain is either blocked by a clot or ruptures. When this happens, part of the brain cannot get the blood and oxygen it needs, causing it and brain cells to die.

Stroke Warning Signs

The American Stroke Association uses F.A.S.T to help us identify warning signs of a stroke.

F = Face Drooping

If one side of the face is drooping or numb, this can be a common sign of a stroke. One way to help to determine this is by asking the person to smile. If their smile is uneven, that is an indication of face drooping caused by a stroke.

A = Arm Weakness

Another sign can be if one arm feels weak or numb. Ask the person to raise both their arms. If one arm drifts downward, it could be a sign of a stroke.

S = Speech Difficulty

Slurred speech is a third sign of a stroke.

T = Time to Call 911

If someone is showing these three warning signs of a stroke, call 911 immediately.

Other Signs and Symptoms

Other signs and symptoms of a stroke can include:

  • Numbness or weakness in the face, arm, or leg (especially on one side of the body)
  • Confusion, including difficulty speaking or understanding speech
  • Difficulty seeing in one or both eyes
  • Difficulty walking, including dizziness or loss of balance or coordination
  • Severe headache with no known cause

Stroke Risk Factors

Given the danger of strokes, it’s important to understand the different risk factors, including both those within and out of your control.

Risk Factors You Can Control

Some risk factors of stroke are within your control. These can include:

  • High blood pressure is the leading cause of stroke
  • Smoking may double stroke risk, specifically for African Americans
  • Diabetes
  • Diets high in saturated fat, trans fat, and cholesterol can raise blood pressure and increase your risk of a stroke
  • Physical inactivity
  • Obesity
  • High blood cholesterol
  • Other heart diseases
  • Sickle cell disease

Risk Factors Beyond Your Control

As with anything else, some stroke risk factors are beyond your control. These can include:

  • Age. The risk of having a stroke increases with age.
  • Family history. You may be at higher risk of having a stroke if your parent, grandparent, or sibling has had a stroke.
  • Race. African Americans have a much higher risk of death from a stroke due to a higher risk of high blood pressure, diabetes, and obesity.
  • Gender. Women are known to have more strokes than men.
  • Prior stroke, TIA, or heart attack. A person who has had a stroke before is at a much higher risk of having another.

Hospice Qualifiers

Hospice can benefit patients who are in the terminal stages of a stroke. The following criteria could be indicators that it may be a good time to consider the additional support of hospice.

  • Received a Palliative Performance Score or Karnofsky score of 40% or less from a primary care physician
  • Mainly bed or wheelchair bound
  • Increasingly impaired functional status, requiring assistance remembering daily tasks or routines
  • Requires assistance with activities of daily living (ADLs)
  • Unable to maintain sufficient fluid and caloric intake with a decrease in eating or drinking
  • Demonstrates progressive weight loss

If you are still unsure if your loved one qualifies for hospice, or if you have any questions about hospice for stroke patients, please don’t hesitate to contact us.

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