What Is Hospice Care?

Hospice care is mainly for those who are in the last stages of a terminal illness. Hospice care includes providing medical services, emotional support and spiritual resources including religious beliefs in the comfort of the persons home. Hospice care in the United States is centered in the home, but at some point, the individual may need to be admitted to a hospital or an extended care facility. Hospice will help family members manage some of the practical details of coping with individuals who are experiencing their last days and the emotional challenges of caring for someone who is dying.

The goal of hospice care is to keep the individual comfortable and improve their quality of life. There has been a large shift in philosophy in the medical care of these individuals, from a focus on healing and treatments to a greater focus on an improving comfort and decreasing pain. Caregivers are really concerned with enhancing the quality of the time remaining, by keeping individuals as alert as possible and comfortable in familiar surroundings with friends and family. Hospice care is also able to help the family and caregivers receive some respite or time away from intense caregiving.

To qualify for hospice care, a physician must be able to document that an individual is expected to live six months or less. This means that individual will no longer receive treatment for their illness and instead receive palliative care.

One of the problems with hospice is that it is often not started soon enough because of resistance from patients, doctors or family members. By beginning hospice care some feel it sends a message of no more hope. However, if the disease gets better or goes into remission the individual can always be taken out of the hospice program and go back into an active treatment. The hope in the hospice is that it brings about a better quality of life, making the best of each day during the last stages of an advanced illness.

Hospice care is a completely, volunteer program, and utilizes the professional knowledge of healthcare professionals or people who provide services, that range from hands-on care to working in the office doing fundraising. Hospice care workers will often be the link that many families require in need, to provide them with the support, both physical and emotional, to get through this very painful and challenging time. The hospice care team will continue to work with surviving family members through the grieving process and will often provide either a trained volunteer, clergy member or professional counselor to encourage families through visits, phone calls or by suggesting support groups.