What Is Hospice?

In the event that your parent or in-law is diagnosed with a terminal illness (typically less than six months to live), hospice services can assist with general care as well as spiritual and bereavement aspects. Hospice will help provide comfort and support throughout the end-of-life care to help provide quality and dignity to the dying person's life.

Hospice is a word derived from the Latin term hospitium, meaning “guesthouse.” Originally, this hospitium, or guesthouse, was a specific shelter designed for the sick and weary travelers who were returning from religious pilgrimages. Today, hospice is more of a concept than an actual place.

Hospice care as it is known today began in Britain in the 1960s, when Dr. Cicely Saunders established St. Christopher's Hospice near London. The health-care team developed care-giving and pain-management techniques that formed the foundation for hospice care today.

In 1974, the first hospice in the U.S. was founded in New Haven, Connecticut. Today, there are over 3,200 hospice programs in the U.S. and 80 percent of hospice care is provided in the patient's home, a family member's home, or in nursing homes. Only a small number of in-house hospices exist.

Hospice care does not hasten death, nor does it prolong life. The goal of hospice care is to provide an improved quality of life in the patient's last days by addressing all of the symptoms presented by the terminal disease. The emphasis is on maintaining dignity while controlling pain and discomfort.

Attempts at curative treatments are not a part of hospice care. Hospice care begins when these treatments are no longer effective and the patient is ready to stop this aspect of treatment and move into the hospice mode.

Hospice helps the patient and his or her family and friends deal with the emotional, spiritual, and social impact of the terminal disease. Hospice care offer's a variety of bereavement and counseling services before and after the patient's death.

The Hospice Team

The hospice team consists of physician(s), nurses, nursing or home-health aides, a medical social worker, chaplain or clergy, and usually a team of volunteers. They work together with the patient, family, friends, and personal clergy or spiritual advisors to form and carry out a plan of care.

Medicare, Medicaid, and most private insurances cover the cost of hospice care. Some insurance plans have limited or very specific hospice benefits, but most home-health and hospice agencies will work with patients and families within these constraints to provide end-of-life care.

  1. Home
  2. Caring for Aging Parents
  3. End-of-Life Issues
  4. What Is Hospice?
Visit other About.com sites: