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What Is Hospice?

Hospice provides comfort and support to people who are nearing the end of life. This helps them and their family let go with dignity. Hospice focuses on quality of life. And it helps someone live his or her last days with a sense of control. Hospice programs support both the patient and family. They include physical, emotional, and spiritual services. This sheet tells you more about hospice. It may help you decide if this care is right for you or your loved one.

The Goals of Hospice

Hospice is a special type of care for people with a terminal illness. Its goal is not to shorten life. Instead, the goal is to give comfort and support to a dying person and his or her loved ones. Hospice care helps to ease disease symptoms, such as pain, nausea, and breathing problems. It also helps to meet the emotional and spiritual needs of a dying person, and those of his or her family and friends.

Qualifying for Hospice

A person with an illness can go into hospice when a doctor believes he or she has about 6 months or less to live. Hospice care can be used by people in the end stages of cancer, severe lung disease, heart failure, and other diseases. Hospice continues as long as it is needed. If a person’s health improves, he or she can end the hospice care and start it again later. Also, a person in hospice has the right to leave hospice care at any time for any reason.

The Services of Hospice

Hospice is most commonly provided in the home, but can be offered in the nursing home, assisted living facility, or hospital depending on the person's care needs. Hospice care is provided by a team. The team has a doctor and nurse trained in hospice care. It may also have a social worker, home health aide, counselor, spiritual advisor, and others. If hospice is done at home, family members give day-to-day care. Support is given to the patient and family in many ways. These may include:

  • Making sure medications are given for the comfort of the patient.

  • Helping the family set up the home.

  • Supplying medical equipment as needed.

  • Helping the family arrange 24-hour care.

  • Helping the patient and family find emotional, spiritual, and financial resources as needed.

  • Managing contact between the patient, family, and health care providers.

Who Pays for Hospice?

Medicare and Medicaid cover hospice care for people age 65 or older. Most health insurance companies also cover hospice care. The hospice team can help you learn details about hospice benefits.

© 2000-2015 The StayWell Company, LLC. 780 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.