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Hospice Introduction

Nobody wants to die, but we all do at some point. Hospice care will not prevent your death, but will help you in how you want to die.

  • If you care for someone with a grave illness, or if you care for an older adult relative, hospice care is an option that can be beneficial to you, your family, and the dying person.
  • There is always something that can be done to improve the quality of life for those near death. What can be done may not prolong life, but there is always a valid treatment to bring comfort and dignity. This is a promise that hospice delivers.

What Hospice Is

Hospice is an idea, not a place. The idea is that if someone you love has an incurable illness, and treatment to prolong life and keep the illness under control no longer works, there is still something that medical science can do. Even if life cannot be prolonged, comfort can always be provided, and it should be provided effectively.

  • Although hospice is an idea not dependent on a particular place or facility, hospice is delivered to the patient and the family at a place.
    • The place is most often the patient's home because that's where most people would like to be in their final months.
    • Sometimes a patient may need a specific type of care that cannot be provided at home or the primary caregiver is too frail or ill to provide care. Then hospice may be delivered somewhere other than the home of the patient. Some hospices have inpatient facilities. These could be freestanding buildings or designated rooms in a hospital or nursing home.
    • When hospice care is provided outside the home, every effort is made to make the place as homelike as possible. Making a hospital room or a nursing home room homelike takes imagination and work. That's why many hospices, if they can get sufficient endowment funding, build freestanding "hospice houses." Some nursing homes and hospitals have separate hospice units that are decorated and staffed different than the rest of the facility.
    • Wherever hospice care is provided for the patient, the family should expect to have 24-hour-a-day access to the patient. Children should be allowed to visit, and within reason, pets should have access to the patient.
  • Hospice care is directed at the entire family, so wherever it's provided, it consists of more than just nursing care and medications for comfort.
    • Spiritual guidance is offered. Spiritual guidance can be independent of religious background.
    • Social work help is available when needed.
    • Volunteers might be with the patient at least for several hours and at least twice a week. The volunteers provide company for the patient while the family caregivers take time to do whatever they need to do to keep up with their other responsibilities and interests. One of the problems with being a primary caregiver for a person who has a terminal illness is that there's a temptation to put your life on hold to such an extent that, when the person dies, you have nothing to look forward to except grief. Hospice staff do all they can to prevent this from happening.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 1/27/2015

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What kind of services are provided?

Hospice services generally include:

  • Basic medical care with a focus on pain and symptom control.
  • Medical supplies and equipment as needed.
  • Counseling and social support to help you and your family with psychological, emotional, and spiritual issues.
  • Guidance with the difficult, but normal, issues of life completion and closure.
  • A break (respite care) for caregivers, family, and others who regularly care for you.
  • Volunteer support such as meal preparation or errand running.
  • Counseling and support for your loved ones after you die.


Read What Your Physician is Reading on Medscape

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