Hospice is care that addresses an individual’s physical, emotional, and spiritual needs at the end of life. The goal of hospice care is to provide comfort and support to patients and families and to ensure that the patient may enjoy the fullness of life at the end of life. To accomplish these goals, hospice relies upon palliative treatment. Palliative care provides comfort, manages pain, offers relief from symptoms, and promotes quality of life rather than seeking a cure for illness. Palliative treatment reflects the fundamental affirmation of life which lies at the heart of hospice care. Hospice neither hastens nor prolongs life, but rather accepts death as a natural part of life and provides a support network for patients and families in a time of difficult transition.
Hospice services are generally offered to patients with a prognosis of 6 months or less to live. While many individuals on hospice care are cancer patients, hospice services are available for any person of any age who has a life-limiting illness such as HIV/AIDS, Alzheimer’s, cardiac disease, stroke and severe dementia. Hospice services are even available to individuals who have no disease contributing to a decline in health, but are clearly approaching the end of life.
People who face severe and life limiting illness deserve to have compassionate care, companionship, and true dignity at life’s close. Hospice strives to honor these principles by providing a network of individuals who work to care for both patient and family. Hospice teams usually include a physician, nurse, home health aide, social worker, chaplain, and a volunteer. Each of these individuals contributes to patient care, offering services like caregiver respite, palliative medications, medical equipment for in-home care, and grief counseling among other services. The flexible nature of hospice allows patients to receive hospice services in their home, in a hospital, or in a care facility. Hospice services are generally covered by Medicare, Medicaid, or private health insurance.