The goal of hospice care is to enable patients to continue an alert, pain-free life and to manage other symptoms so that their last days may be spent with dignity and quality, surrounded by their loved ones.
“You matter because of who you are. You matter to the last moment of your life, and we will do all we can , not only to help you die peacefully, but also to live until you die” –Dame Cicely Saunders
Hospice is a philosophy of coordinated care for patients and their loved ones. Hospice is not a place, but a concept of care that allows a patient to die with dignity and respect. It focuses on the physical, emotional and spiritual needs of the patient and family. Hospice care is meant for the time when cancer treatment is no longer effective in providing a cure, and when life-expectancy is likely 6 months or less. Hospice employs “palliative” care, which is treatment to help relieve disease-related symptoms, but not cure the disease; its main purpose is to improve quality of life. The patient, family, and their doctor decide together when hospice care should begin.
Hospice affirms life and does not hasten or postpone death. Hospice care treats the person rather than the disease; it focuses on quality rather than length of life. Hospice care is family-centered care — it involves the patient and the family in making decisions. Care is provided for the patient and family 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Hospice care can be given in the patient’s home, a hospital, nursing home, or private hospice facility. Most cancer patients choose to get hospice care at home. In fact, more than 90% of the hospice services provided in this country are based in patients’ homes. Although hospice care can be centered in the home, you may need to be admitted to a hospital, extended-care facility, or a hospice inpatient facility. The hospice can arrange for inpatient care and will stay involved in your care and with your family. You can go back to in-home care when you and your family are ready.
In most cases, an interdisciplinary health care team manages hospice care. This means that many interacting disciplines work together to care for the patient. Doctors, nurses, social workers, counselors, home health aides, clergy, therapists, and trained volunteers care for you. Each of these people offers support based on their special areas of expertise. Together, they then give you and your loved ones complete palliative care aimed at relieving symptoms and giving social, emotional, and spiritual support.
Home hospice care usually costs less than care in hospitals, nursing homes, or other institutional settings. This is because less high-cost technology is used and family and friends provide most of the care at home.
Medicare, Medicaid in some states, the Department of Veterans Affairs, most private insurance plans, HMOs, and other managed care organizations pay for hospice care. Along with this, community contributions, memorial donations, and foundation gifts allow many hospices to give free services to patients who can’t afford payment. Some programs charge patients according to their ability to pay.
Before making a decision about the type of program that is best for you and your family, it is important to know all your options and what each requires. Your doctor, hospital social worker, or discharge planner can be very helpful in deciding which program is best for you and your family. Find a hospice facility near you.