What is hospice?

Hospice is a concept rooted in the centuries-old idea of  offering a place of shelter and rest, or hospitality" to weary and sick travelers on a long journey. Dame Cicely Saunders at St. Christopher's Hospice in London first applied the term "hospice" to specialized care for dying patients in 1967. Today, hospice care provides humane and compassionate care for people in the last phases of incurable disease so that they may live as fully and comfortably as possible.

Hospice is a philosophy of care. The hospice philosophy recognizes death as the final stage of life and seeks to enable patients to continue an alert, pain-free life and to manage other symptoms so that their last days may be spent with dignity and quality, surrounded by their loved ones. Hospice affirms life and neither hastens nor postpones death. Hospice care treats the person rather than the disease; it emphasizes quality rather than length of life. It provides family-centered care involving the patient and family in making decisions. Care is provided for the patient and family 24 hours a day and 7 days a week. Hospice care can be given in the patient's home, a hospital, nursing home, or private hospice facility. Most hospice care in the US is given in the home, with a family member serving as the main hands-on caregiver.

Hospice care is appropriate when you can no longer benefit from curative treatment and life expectancy is, at most, no longer than 6 months. You, your family, and your doctor decide together when hospice services should begin. If your condition improves or the disease goes into remission, you can be discharged from the hospice program and return to active cancer treatment, if desired. Hospice care may be resumed at a later time.

Definition: - literal meaning "a place of shelter." Today it refers to supportive care of a terminally ill patient.

Hospice care is really a coordinated health care program that provides comfort to patients and supportive care to patients and their loved ones in both home and facility-based settings.

Hospice care does not mean giving up on life.

Hospice care does mean living life to its fullest.

The primary focus of hospice care is on enhancing quality of life for the patient and loved ones.

Physical, social, emotional and spiritual care is provided by a medically-directed interdisciplinary team.

The team usually includes:

  • The patient
  • Care givers
  • Medical doctors
  • Registered nurses
  • Home health aides
  • Social workers
  • Chaplains and other counselors
  • Volunteers

Hospice means help for family members and loved ones, both during the illness and after the patient dies. Caring for someone with a life-limiting illness sometimes feel overwhelming. Hospice care brings a qualified team of compassionate, experienced professionals and volunteers to provide relief. Hospice care provides practical education for those caring for the patient and specialized counseling for both adults and children.