Caring, not curing

Hospice provides comfort, peace and dignity. The 2014 edition of Hospice Care in America developed by the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization explains, “Hospice provides expert medical care, pain management, and emotional and spiritual support expressly tailored to the patient’s needs and wishes. Support is provided to the patient’s loved ones as well...In most cases, hospice care is provided in the patient’s home but may also be provided in freestanding hospice centers, hospitals, nursing homes, and other long-term care facilities…[the hospice team] usually consists of the patient’s personal physician, hospice physician or medical director, nurses, hospice aides, social workers, bereavement counselors, clergy or other spiritual counselors, trained volunteers and speech, physical, and occupational therapists, who develop a care plan that meets each patient’s individual needs for pain management and symptom control.” For instances when medical care cannot provide a cure, hospice re-orients care toward comfort.

According to Dr. Alexi Wright of Harvard Medical School and the Dana Farber Cancer Institute, studies have shown that hospice care is associated with, “Better symptom relief, attainment of pain-management goals, and quality of end-of-life care.” Studies also suggest, “Earlier hospice enrollment is associated with better symptom management, less pain, better quality of care, and a higher likelihood that patients will receive the care that they want in their own environment.” Further, studies linking “Hospice to better quality of life for patients and a greater likelihood of dying in the location of choice, also find less bereavement-related distress for caregivers,” according to Dr. Camilla Zimmermann, a palliative care researcher at the University of Toronto.

On call 24/7, hospice care focuses on providing pain relief and overall care (assistance with bathing, dressing, eating, mobility…) to patients as they near end of life. If the patient’s health improves, hospice care can be discontinued. Another benefit of hospice is respite care which allows the patient to be cared for at a facility for a period of time so the primary caregiver can get some rest and then return to the care of their caregiver. Providing support and assistance to family members and caregivers of the patient are an important focal point of hospice care. 


Important questions you may wish to ask about hospice in your area:

  • Who is on the team and how are they trained and screened?

  • What patient services are offered?

  • What caregiver and family services are offered?

  • How is pain managed?

  • Is there a dedicated pharmacist who can provide guidance and medications?

  • What hours of the day is hospice care provided?

  • Is the program covered under Medicare?

  • How long does it take to get accepted into the program and be set up for care?