Hospice care teams provide people with comfortable care if they have a life-limiting illness.

If a disease has no cure, hospice care becomes a care option. When people face the end of their lives, the shift from healing treatments can be challenging and distressing.

Read on for more information on hospice care, and how it differs from palliative care.

An elderly woman speaks to her caretaker about what it is she should expect for hospice care.Share on Pinterest
Hospice teams help create a comfortable environment for people in the final stages of life and their family members.

Hospice care is for people who are in the final stages of an incurable illness. The aim is to ensure they are comfortable, and able to live their last days as fully as possible.

Hospice care professionals do not cure diseases. Instead, they treat a person’s symptoms to improve their quality of life. They also aim to include family members and caregivers in decisions that affect a person’s care.

People can receive hospice care within the following settings:

  • at home
  • in the hospital
  • at an extended care facility, such as a nursing home
  • at a specialized hospice center

However, hospice care most commonly occurs at home.

Hospice care is not just for people with incurable cancer. It may benefit people with late-stage kidney, lung, and heart disease, and those with advanced neurological conditions, such as Alzheimer’s disease.

Hospice care begins when an illness becomes so advanced it is no longer curable, and it is not possible to control it.

A qualified hospice doctor and a person’s primary care doctor need to certify whether they meet the criteria for hospice care. It may be time for hospice care if a person:

  • has fewer than 6 months to live
  • is not seeing improvements to their health after treatment, and their quality of life rapidly declines
  • decides to stop treatments to prolong their life

A person may live longer than 6 months and continue to receive hospice care, if a doctor recertifies them.

According to the American Cancer Society, people often do not receive hospice care early enough.

A study from 2007 found that 10% of people receive hospice care too late. Late referrals often result in patient dissatisfaction and other unmet needs.

Researchers also suggest families of those who have a shorter stay in hospice tend to report higher levels of dissatisfaction with care.

Hospice care includes the following:

  • symptom control and management, also known as palliative care
  • pain management
  • stress management and other mental health support
  • spiritual support
  • family support

Symptom management does not involve treatment of the illness directly, such as the use of chemotherapy to treat cancer. Instead, hospice care helps ease symptoms to ensure the person can live comfortably in their final days.

Hospice caregivers also provide support to families. They keep them up-to-date on their family member’s condition and let them know what to expect. This can include information about the dying process.

A 2011 study on people with dementia found that families whose loved one receive hospice care are more likely to be satisfied with the quality of care.

Hospice teams also provide 24/7 support. They offer direct care and organize care by other medical professionals. They may also coordinate communication with clergy and funeral directors, and provide bereavement support for grieving loved ones.

In cases where hospice takes place at home, respite care offers non-professional caregivers a break from their duties.

According to a 2019 survey, many people have misperceptions about what palliative and hospice care involves. While there is some overlap between the two, they are not the same.

Both types of care manage symptoms and address other important psychosocial needs, to improve a person’s quality of life.

However, while palliative care often goes hand in hand with curative treatment, hospice care does not. If a person has a serious illness, they may sometimes receive palliative care.

Hospice care takes place when someone with a serious illness nears the end of their life. The care they receive is designed solely to ease their symptoms, and minimize any complications of the disease.

Besides this, palliative care teams are separate from the leading medical care team that provides treatment for a person’s illness. Hospice care teams, on the other hand, coordinate the majority of a person’s care.

Learn more about palliative care here.

For people who face the end stages of a terminal illness, hospice care can help ease pain, discomfort, and other symptoms. This type of care can help people live their final days as fully and comfortably as possible.

While they treat symptoms, hospice care teams also communicate with family members and provide 24/7 support. They also help terminally ill people and their loved ones make difficult decisions regarding end-of-life care.

Hospice care workers provide emotional support to terminally ill people, and their families, before and after their death.