Patient Concerns

What is hospice?

Hospice is a philosophy of care that focuses on improving the quality of life for people and their families faced with a life-limiting illness. The primary goals of hospice care are to provide comfort, relieve physical, emotional, and spiritual suffering, and to promote the dignity of terminally ill persons. Hospice care neither prolongs nor hastens the dying process.

When is it time for hospice care?

The decision to enter hospice care can be made at the time of the diagnoses of a terminal disease or later in the course of treatment. It can be difficult to accept death and even more difficult to let death come naturally. As long as your physician certifies that you have a limited life expectancy of six months or less and you and your family desire no further aggressive/curative treatment, you are eligible for hospice.

What if I don’t have a cancer diagnosis?

More than one-half of hospice patients nation-wide have diagnoses other than cancer. Hospices are also serving families coping with the end-stages of chronic diseases, like emphysema, Alzheimer's, cardiovascular, and neuromuscular diseases.

Where can I receive hospice care?

Hospice is not a physical location. Hospice care can be provided in a person’s home, nursing home, hospital, or independent facility devoted to end-of-life care.

What kind of care will I receive?

Hospice care is holistic; Hospice treats the whole person, not just the disease. It focuses on the needs of both the patient and the family. Care is provided by an interdisciplinary team including the physician, nurse, social worker, chaplain, home health aide, pharmacist, volunteers, nutritionist, and physical therapist.

Has my doctor “given up” on me by referring me to hospice?

Primary physicians often remain actively involved in the care of patients after admission to hospice. For many patients, the involvement of the primary physician in hospice care provides reassurance that their doctors are NOT “giving up” on them. Even if you are no longer being offered curative medical options there is much that can be done to improve quality of life and mange pain and symptoms.

What is the difference between hospice and palliative care?

Hospice care is a specialized form of palliative care provided during the last few months of a person’s life. People who have a life-limiting disease may receive palliative care at any point in the course of their illness for pain and other physical symptoms and to assist them in coping with how the illness impacts their daily living and family. Both hospice and palliative care share the goals of relieving suffering and improving quality of life.

Who is on my hospice team?

The hospice team interdisciplinary team provides care based on a coordinated plan of care. The patient and family are integral members of this team. Regular team meetings and frequent communications among clinical staff and with the patient’s primary physician ensure that patient and family needs and goals are met and constantly reassessed.

Helping to Make a Difficult Time Easier brochure (PDF)