Hospice is a philosophy of caring for patients whose medical conditions are not responding to treatment or for those patients who choose not to seek aggressive medical care at the end stage of life. It is a program for patients who are considered terminal. Hospice focuses on comfort care not curative care. The goal of hospice care is for the patient to remain as comfortable and pain-free as possible in their own home or the home of a loved one through the end of life. Hospice care can also be provided in a long-term facility or an assisted living facility.
Hospice care is provided through an interdisciplinary, medically directed team. This team approach to care for dying persons typically includes a physician, a nurse, a home health aide, a social worker, a chaplain and a volunteer.
The hospice nurse makes regularly scheduled visits to the patient providing expert pain management and symptom control techniques. Throughout the time that the patient is under the care of hospice, the nurse keeps the primary physician informed of the patient’s condition. Nurses provide the complete spectrum of skilled nursing care and are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Home health aides provide assistance with the personal care of the patient. Social workers provide assistance with practical and financial concerns as well as emotional support, counseling and bereavement follow-up. They evaluate the need for volunteers and other support services needed by the family and facilitate communication between the family and community agencies.
Chaplains provide spiritual support to patients and families, often serving as a liaison between them and their religious community. Chaplains often assist with memorial services and funeral arrangements.
Hospice is a licensed or certified program that provides care for people that are terminally ill and their families. Hospice care can be provided at a patient's home, in an assisted living facility, nursing home, or within a hospital. Hospice can be also referred to as "palliative care." This type of care emphasizes the management of pain and discomfort and addresses the physical, spiritual, emotional, psychological, financial, and legal needs of the patient and their family.