Font Size


Hospice Facts

Nobody wants to die, but we all do at some point. Hospice care will not prevent your death, but can help you during this time at the end of life.

  • 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 almost 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 strives to deliver.

What is Hospice?

Hospice is an idea, a philosophy of care. While there are, and historically have been, buildings called hospices, today "hospice care" need not mean care delivered in a special facility. 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 professionals can do. Even if life cannot be prolonged, comfort can virtually always be provided, and it should be provided effectively whenever possible.

  • Although hospice is an idea not dependent on a particular place or facility, hospice care is delivered to the patient and the family at a place most often of their choosing.
    • 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 not taken care of yourself and your other obligations. On top of that is layered grief. Hospice staff do all they can to prevent this from happening.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 11/20/2017

Must Read Articles Related to Hospice

Advance Directives
Advance Directives Advance directives center around the principles of your right to die and death with dignity. A living will tells doctors what life-prolonging treatments to perf...learn more >>
Chronic Pain
Chronic Pain Chronic pain is pain that persists for a period of six months or longer, and is the result of a long-standing medical condition(s) or damage to the body. Common...learn more >>
End-of-Life Decision Making
End-of-Life Decision Making End-of-life decision making typically involves creating two documents: an advance directive and a durable learn more >>

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

Palliative Care in the Acute Care Setting »

Palliative care has been defined by the World Health Organization (WHO)as "the active total care of patients whose disease is not responsive to curative treatment. Control of pain, of other symptoms, and of psychological, social and spiritual problems, is paramount.

Read More on Medscape Reference »

Medical Dictionary