Understanding Hospice: What is Hospice?

This is the first post in Understanding Hospice, an educational series we plan to post over the next few months that will outline different aspects of hospice care such as:

  • What is Hospice?
  • Key Questions and Concerns About Hospice
  • Truths About Hospice
  • Importance of Self Care for Caregivers
  • and more!

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What is Hospice?

Hospice is care provided to patients with an advanced, life-limiting illness or injury. A team of healthcare professionals focuses on caring, not curing and delivers care that supports the physical, emotional, mental and spiritual needs of patients and their families. At the heart of hospice care is the belief that each of us has the right to die pain-free and with dignity, and that our families will receive the necessary support to allow us to do so.

In most cases, hospice care is provided in the patient’s home, but can also be provided in hospitals, nursing homes, other long-term care facilities and freestanding hospice centers. Hospice services are available to patients of any age, religion, race, or illness. Hospice care is covered under Medicare, Medicaid, most private insurance plans, HMOs, and other managed care organizations.

How does hospice care work?

It is the patient’s right (or in some cases, the right of the person who holds power of attorney) and decision to determine when hospice is appropriate and which program suits his or her needs. Following this initial decision, a family member typically serves as the primary caregiver and, when appropriate, helps make decisions for the terminally ill individual. Members of the hospice team make regular visits to assess the patient and provide additional care or other services. Hospice staff is on-call 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

 Each team at Accredited Hospices of America consists of:

  • The patient’s personal physician and/or
  • Hospice physician
  • Registered Nurses
  • Certified Nurse Aides
  • Social worker
  • Chaplain
  • Trained volunteers

 What services are provided?

Among its major responsibilities, the interdisciplinary hospice team:

  • Develops a care plan that meets each patient’s individual needs for pain management and symptom control
  • Manages the patient’s pain and symptoms according to their care plan
  • Assists the patient and family with the emotional, psychosocial and spiritual aspects of dying
  • Provides needed drugs, medical supplies, and equipment
  • Coaches the family on how to care for the patient
  • Delivers special services like speech and physical therapy when needed
  • Assists in arrangement of short-term inpatient care available when pain or symptoms become too difficult to manage at home, or the caregiver needs respite time
  • Provides bereavement care and counseling to surviving family and friends

When faced with an advanced illness, many patients and family members tend to dwell on the imminent loss of life rather than on making the most of the life that remains. Hospice helps patients reclaim the spirit of life.



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