Hospice Care Overview
What is hospice care?
The word "hospice" means "a place of shelter." Today, the "place of shelter" is not
so much a physical location as it is a service that helps a patient who is terminally
ill to die with dignity and peace. Hospice care is also the type of care provided
to support a terminally ill patient at home or wherever he or she lives. Care usually
involves relieving troublesome symptoms and providing psychological and social support
for the patient and family. The goal of hospice care is to not only provide the terminally
ill patient and the family with a comfortable death experience, but to also enable
the person to live to the fullest, even with a terminal prognosis.
To qualify for hospice care, a patient usually has a life expectancy of less than
Research has shown that hospice care at home helps the entire family. Family members
are encouraged to take an active role in providing supportive care to the patient.
In doing so, the family experiences fewer feelings of helplessness and the patient
is not relying solely on strangers for all of his or her care.
Settings for hospice care
Although many patients receive hospice care at home, hospice care can also take place
in other settings, including:
Hospital-based hospice. Most hospitals have a hospice program to give terminally ill
patients access to support services and other healthcare professionals. Some hospitals
even have a special hospice unit. Often these units provide intensive medical and
psychological support to patients who need aggressive symptom management.
Long-term care hospice. Many nursing homes and long-term care homes have hospice units
with specially trained staff for those patients who do not have a primary caregiver
at home, or who need medical services not suitable for a home setting. If this is
not available, patients can be cared for in the nursing home with hospice services
being delivered directly and individually to them.
Freestanding hospices. Independently owned hospices may sometimes include an inpatient
care facility. This is in addition to their home care hospice services. The inpatient
facilities offer patients hospice services when a primary caregiver is not available
at home, or the patient needs medical services not suitable for a home setting.
Assisted living facility. Many patients live in personal care homes or assisted living
facilities as their home. When they become terminally ill, hospice care services can
be provided in their home setting with little or no disruption.
What services does hospice care provide?
Hospice services are similar to home healthcare services, but also include:
24-hour care or on-call care
Respite care to give the caregiver a break for up to 5 days
The choice of having a death attended by hospice staff