Hospice Care Overview

What is hospice care?

Picture of an elderly woman and younger woman holding hands

The word "hospice" literally means "a place of shelter." It is also the type of care provided to support a terminally ill patient at home. Care usually involves relieving symptoms and providing psychological and social support for the patient and family. The goal of hospice care is to provide the terminally ill patient peace, comfort, and dignity.

To qualify for hospice care, a patient usually has a life expectancy of less than six months.

Research has shown that hospice care at home helps a family as a whole. In addition to being in the comfort of the home, family members can also take an active role in providing supplemental, supportive care to the patient.

Settings for hospice care:

Although most 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 health care professionals. Some hospitals even have a special hospice unit.

  • 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 require medical services not suitable for a home setting.

  • freestanding hospices

    Independently owned hospices may sometimes include an inpatient care facility, 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 requires medical services not suitable for a home setting.

What services does hospice care provide?

Hospice services are similar to home health care services, but may also include:

  • spiritual services

  • 24-hour care or on-call care

  • respite care

  • bereavement support

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