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Hospice care

Alternate Names

Palliative care; End-of-life care

What It Is

Hospice care helps people with illnesses that can’t be cured and who are nearing death. The goal is to give comfort and peace instead of cure. Hospice care provides relief from pain and symptoms, and support for the patient and the family. It helps family and loved ones 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)
  • Helping the patient and family learn what to expect
  • Helping the patient and family cope with loneliness and fear
  • Helping the patient and family share feelings
  • Helping the family after the loss (called bereavement care)

The hospice team helps 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.

Updated: 4/4/2012

David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc.


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