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Hospice care

Alternative names

Palliative care; End-of-life care

What it is

Hospice care helps people with illnesses that cannot be cured and who are nearing death. The goal is to give comfort and peace instead of a cure. Hospice care provides:

  • Support for the patient and the family
  • Relief to the patient from pain and symptoms
  • Help for family members and loved ones who want to stay close to the dying patient

Most hospice patients are in their last 6 months of life. Hospice care does not make death come faster, or put off death.

What hospice care offers

Hospice care is given by a team. This team may include doctors, nurses, social workers, counselors, aides, clergy, and therapists. The team works together to give the patient and family comfort and support.

The hospice team is always available.

Hospice care treats the mind, body, and spirit. Services may include:

  • Control of pain
  • Treatment of symptoms (such as shortness of breath, constipation, or anxiety)
  • Spiritual care that meets your needs
  • Giving the family a break (called respite care)

The hospice team is trained to help the patient and family with the following:

  • What to expect
  • Cope with loneliness and fear
  • Share feelings
  • Bereavement care (helping the family cope after the death)

Where hospice care is offered

Hospice care may be given in many locations, including:

  • The patient's home
  • The home of a family member or friend
  • A nursing home
  • A hospital
  • In a hospice center

The person in charge of care is called the primary care giver. This may be a spouse, life partner, family member, or friend. In some settings the hospice team will teach the primary care giver how to care for the patient. Caring could include turning the patient in bed, and feeding, bathing, and giving the patient medicine. The primary care giver will also be taught about signs to look for, so he or she knows when to call the hospice team for help or advice.

References

Byock I. Principles of palliative medicine. In: In: Walsh D, Caraceni AT, Fainsinger R, et al., eds. Palliative Medicine. 1st ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2008:chap 7.

Rakel RE, Strach EM. Care of the dying patient. Rakel RE, Rakel DP, eds. Textbook of Family Medicine. 8th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2011:chap 5.

Updated: 5/7/2014

Todd Gersten, MD, Hematology/Oncology, Florida Cancer Specialists & Research Institute, Wellington, FL. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.


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