Rosalynn Carter, 96, announced Friday that she had entered hospice care at her home in Georgia.
The former first lady and former President Jimmy Carter, 99, are now spending time together and with their family while they are both in hospice care.
Last February, the president opted for palliative care at home rather than seeing an additional doctor after a series of short hospital stays, according to a statement from the Carter Center.
FORMER FIRST LADY ROSALYNN CARTER ENTERS HOSPICE CARE
What is hospice care – and what does it mean for the Carters and anyone else who has started this type of care?
“Palliative care is health care for people who are dying,” Dr. Harold Braswell, an associate professor of health care ethics at St. Louis University and author of several books related to dying issues, said Friday. of life, to Fox News Digital by email. .
A person becomes eligible for palliative care, he said, after diagnosis of an illness with a prognosis of “six months or less to live.”
“This care is interdisciplinary and includes medical, psychosocial and spiritual components, as well as some assistance with activities of daily living,” Braswell said.
Unlike the hospital setting, where doctors work to cure an illness or disorder and prolong a person’s life, palliative care seeks to manage symptoms, such as pain, and help patients as they develop. their life is coming to an end.
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“Palliative care is not curative care,” Braswell said. “It is not geared toward curing a patient’s condition – and, in fact, to qualify for palliative care generally requires the patient to abandon curative interventions such as chemotherapy.”
Additionally, hospice care does not intentionally cause or hasten a patient’s death, and generally does not include 24/7 care, according to the Hospice Foundation of America website.
In the United States, most palliative care is provided on an outpatient basis, Braswell told Fox News Digital.
This can be done in a person’s home, as the Carters do, or in a nursing home or long-term care facility.
A few weeks is “too little time for palliative care to be of maximum benefit,” one expert said.
“Some hospices — a relatively small number — provide inpatient care, even if it’s only for a very short period of time, usually for people who are dying,” Braswell said.
There are four levels of hospice care, according to the WebMD website.
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Two of these levels occur at home.
“Routine home care,” the most common form of hospice care, involves nurses and home health aides.
The next level, “continuous home care,” involves the constant presence of a nurse or health care professional, WebMD said.
“General hospital care” and “respite care” involve the patient’s stay in a palliative care facility.
With respite care, a patient goes to a facility to receive care to provide a temporary break for their caregivers.
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A person may consider starting hospice care after experiencing “a significant decline in physical and/or cognitive status despite medical treatment,” according to the Hospice Foundation of America, or if the individual is not seeing results from “the often physically debilitating treatments” for an illness.
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Experts say the start of palliative care does not mean the patient is just days or even weeks away from death.
It is often beneficial for the patient and their family to begin palliative care as early as possible, but this does not always happen.
Because palliative care requires a person to cease curative care, many terminally ill patients choose to begin it only weeks before their death.
“This has created a problem in that many people don’t give up on these services until it’s (much) too late,” Braswell said.
A few weeks is “too little time for palliative care to achieve its maximum benefits,” he added.
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Rosalyn Carter was diagnosed with dementia earlier this year.
His family has requested privacy during this time.
Greg Wehner of Fox News Digital contributed to this report.
For more health articles, visit www.foxnews.com/health.