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What is Hospice Care?

What is Hospice Care?

Hospice is designed to provide comfort and support to patients and their families when a life-limiting illness no longer responds to cure-oriented treatments. Hospice care doesn’t prolong life nor does it hasten death. The goal of hospice care is to improve the quality of a patient’s last days by offering comfort and dignity. The care is provided by a team-oriented group of specially trained professionals, volunteers and family members.

Things to note:

  • Hospice addresses all symptoms of a disease, with a special emphasis on controlling a patient’s pain and discomfort
  • Hospice staff and volunteers offer a specialized knowledge of medical care, including pain management
  • Hospice deals with the emotional, social and spiritual impact of the disease on the patient and the patient’s family and friends
  • Hospice offers a variety of bereavement and counseling services to families before and after a patient’s death

Hospice is not a place but a way of caring for a dying person. The vast majority of hospice care is provided in the patient’s home, a family member’s home or in nursing homes. Inpatient hospice facilities are also sometimes available to assist with caregiving.

MYTH: Hospice is where you go when there is “nothing else to be done.”

Fact: Hospice is the “something more” that can be done for the patient and the family when the illness cannot be cured. It is a concept based on comfort-oriented care. Referral into hospice is a movement into another mode of therapy, which may be more appropriate for terminal care.

MYTH: Families should be isolated from a dying patient.

Fact: Hospice staff believe that when family members (including children) experience the dying process in a caring environment, it helps counteract the fear of their own mortality and the mortality of their loved one.

MYTH: Hospice care is more expensive.

Fact: Studies have shown hospice care to be no more costly. Frequently, it is less expensive than conventional care during the last six months of life. Less high-cost technology is used, and family, friend, and volunteers provide 90% of the day-to-day patient-care at home. Additionally, patients eligible for Medicare or Medicaid will pay few out-of-pocket expenses related to their hospice care. Most private insurers also cover some or most hospice-related expenses.

MYTH: You can’t keep your own doctor if you enter hospice.

Fact: Hospice physicians work closely with your doctor of choice to determine a plan of care.

You can learn more about hospice and find local providers in the Hospice Foundation of America directory. You can also search on our site here.

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