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Hospice

Alternate Names

  • hospice care

Definition

Hospice is a special form of care for people who have terminal diseases. The goal is to give support to those near death, instead of trying to cure their diseases. Hospice care focuses on the ill person and the family, not the disease.

What is the information for this topic?

Hospice is a type of care for people with a terminal illness. It is usually only offered to people who are estimated to have less than 6 months to live. An example of a hospice patient is a person with terminal cancer. Anyone with a terminal condition is eligible for this type of care.
Hospice care does not attempt to cure a person's disease. Rather, the disease is allowed to run its natural course. The goal of hospice care is to reduce pain and other symptoms, as well as to give spiritual and emotional support.
The first hospice in the US was organized in 1974 in Connecticut. Today, there are thousands of hospice programs in the US. Most of them provide care in the person's home.
Hospice centers are also available in many areas. Hospice care includes treatment from doctors, nurses, therapists, dieticians, social workers, clergy, volunteers, and others.
Therapy is designed to:
  • improve the quality of life
  • use pain medications effectively
  • relieve symptoms
  • help meet the individual's spiritual and emotional needs
  • prepare the person and his or her family for death
Nothing is done to hasten the individual's death. Instead, death is allowed to take place naturally.
Hospice care has been shown to increase patient satisfaction, to ease family anxiety, and even to reduce costs. A person must qualify for hospice care. In most cases, a doctor must agree that the person has a terminal illness that is likely to cause death within the next 6 months.
Once people are enrolled in hospice, they can leave any time they want. For example, if the disease improves, they may want to go back to getting treatment for it. Most insurance plans, as well as Medicare and Medicaid, will pay for hospice care. In many cases, those without insurance are still eligible for hospice. Donations can often cover the costs for those who are unable to pay.
The decision to enter hospice is a difficult one for most people. Some people interpret entering hospice care as giving up the fight against a disease and accepting death. Talking with family members and the doctor can help the person make this painful decision. A nearby hospice group can help answer any questions as well.
The end of life can be a difficult time for the person and the family. For some, this time may be better spent at home than in a hospital fighting the disease until the last breath. For many people with terminal diseases, hospice offers a more peaceful way to die.
However, hospice care is not for everyone. An individual facing death can decide for him or herself what kind of care is best.

Sources

The National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization. [hyperLink url="http://www.nho.org" linkTitle="www.nho.org"]www.nho.org[/hyperLink]

Cancer: Principles and Practice of Oncology, 1997, DeVita et al.

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