Hospice care

If you have a terminal illness, as death nears, you may choose to receive help and support from hospice. Hospice is a special kind of care that is available when there is no cure for your condition and death is anticipated within the next 6 months. The goal of hospice care is to manage pain and other symptoms and to keep you as alert and comfortable as possible in a familiar environment, surrounded by your family and friends.

Hospice care is provided by a team of health workers, including nurses, social workers, volunteers, counselors, and personal care assistants. Your doctor can continue to direct your care and work closely with you and the hospice team. Hospice care most often occurs at your home, although it can be given in a nursing home, a hospital, or a hospice center. If you remain at home, the hospice team supports your family in their caregiving. And “family” is not limited to your spouse (or partner) or blood relatives; friends from your workplace, church, community, or neighborhood may be considered part of your family.

Hospice care seeks to relieve physical symptoms and address your emotional, social, and spiritual needs, as well as the needs of your loved ones. Hospice offers a chance to address difficult but normal concerns that you and those you love may have about death and dying, such as pain, unresolved issues, and caregiving needs. If you choose, the counseling and support services that hospice provides will offer opportunities to work on mending important relationships and to explore spiritual issues.

The hospice team is available to help with advance directive forms and with legal and financial affairs. Also, hospice people can answer questions about treatment and what to expect during the dying process. Assistance is also available to help with physical needs, such as bathing and pain control.

Hospice services are a benefit of many private health insurance policies; check your health plan for specific information about hospice coverage. Also, if you qualify for Medicare benefits, hospice services are covered through the Medicare hospice benefit.

For more information on choosing hospice, see the topic Hospice Care.

Last Updated: July 14, 2008

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