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Understanding the Concepts of Hospice Care

Kelly Roper
Hospice patient

Hospice is a philosophy, a care plan, and sometimes even a facility that provides comfort and support to terminally ill patients and their families. Hospice acknowledges the fact that death is the natural conclusion of life, and the overall goal is to control pain, give the patient a better quality of life in the final stages of illess, and ultimately allow the patient to die with dignity.

Understanding the Concept of Hospice

By Definition

The word hospice basically means shelter. By today's standards, a hospice is a facility where terminally ill people receive medical care to manage any pain associated with their terminal illness, as well as other beneficial services.

It should also be noted that a patient does not need to move into a hospice facility in order to receive hospice care. A hospice care team can provide the patient with a variety of services at:

  • The patient's home
  • A hospital
  • An extended-care facility like a nursing home

As a Care Philosophy

The basic philosophy of hospice care is to treat the patient as a whole person. This includes:

  • Managing pain associated with the terminal illness
  • Providing support for a patient's and family's emotional, spiritual and social needs
  • Helping individual patients maintain their dignity and some control over the manner in which they die

What Hospice Doesn't Provide

To be completely clear, hospice care does not attempt to cure a terminal illness. Patients typically enter hospice when treatment options for their illness have been exhausted, and it's time to focus on terminal care. That said, a patient may still receive medical treatment for any unrelated illness that is not strictly a symptom of the terminal illness.

Contrary to what some people believe, hospice is not intended to help a patient die sooner than the natural, expected conclusion of the illness. Assisted suicide is a separate issue, and not part of the hospice care plan or philosophy.

The Decision to Enter Hospice

Making a decision to enter hospice is not an easy thing to do. The process begins by speaking with the patient's primary care physician to be sure that all treatment options have been tried and nothing more can be done to cure the illness. The patient, his or her family, and the physician can then decide whether the time is right for hospice care to begin.

Understanding the Concepts of Hospice Care