Hospice provides what the majority of Americans say they want at the end of life—the chance to spend their final days at home, with symptom management and support for them and their family members.
Hospice isn't a specific place; rather, it is a type of care that medical professionals deliver primarily in the patient's home. The goal of hospice is to improve quality of life by providing comfort and symptom management, including pain control.
Who Is Eligible?
Hospice offers support and care for patients with a life-limiting condition and life expectancy of six months or less, as determined by a doctor. Hospice patients are no longer seeking treatment to cure their illness; however, they are still receiving palliative care. This is treatment to control symptoms, including pain.
What Makes Hospice Care Special?
Hospice addresses the whole range of physical and emotional needs of the patient and the patient's loved ones. A team of doctors, nurses, aides, social workers, chaplains, and, when needed, physical, occupational and speech therapists deliver hospice care. Hospice also provides grief support for an entire year for surviving family and friends.
When Is the Right Time to Enroll?
Learning about and discussing hospice is appropriate at any time during a life-limiting illness. Too often, referrals for hospice are not made until the patient has uncontrolled symptoms or is near death. Although hospice will provide care at these times, patients and families benefit more when hospice services begin earlier.
Enrolling in hospice does not mean giving up hope or all treatment. Hopes may shift and change, and the hospice team will be there to support patients and families with these changes while managing their symptoms. Studies have shown that people have improved quality of life and actually live longer in hospice care because many symptoms are better controlled. Also symptoms that might have needed a hospitalization or an emergency room visit can be managed in the patient's home by the experienced hospice team members.