Hospice Care

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What does hospice care provide?

All hospices must provide certain services, but they tend to have different approaches to service, staffing patterns, and types of support services offered.

Pain and symptom control

The goal of pain and symptom control is to help you be comfortable while allowing you to stay in control of and enjoy your life. This means that discomfort, pain, and side effects are managed to make sure that you are as free of pain and symptoms as possible, yet alert enough to enjoy the people around you and make important decisions.

To learn more, see our document called Pain Control: A Guide for Those With Cancer and Their Loved Ones.

Home care and inpatient care

Although most hospice care is centered in the home, there might be times when you need to be admitted to a hospital, extended-care facility, or an inpatient hospice center. Your home hospice team 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.

Spiritual care

Since people differ in their spiritual needs and religious beliefs, spiritual care is set up to meet your specific needs. It might include helping you look at what death means to you, helping you say good-bye, or helping with a certain religious ceremony or ritual.

Family meetings

Regularly scheduled family meetings, often led by the hospice nurse or social worker, keep family members informed about your condition and what to expect. Family meetings also give everyone a chance to share feelings, talk about what’s happening and what’s needed, and learn about death and the process of dying. Family members can get great support and stress relief through these meetings. Daily updates may also be given informally as the nurse or nursing assistant talks with you and your caregivers during routine visits.

Coordination of care

The interdisciplinary team coordinates and supervises all care 7 days a week, 24 hours a day. This team is responsible for making sure that all involved services share information. This may include the inpatient facility, the home care agency, the doctor, and other community professionals, such as pharmacists, clergy, and funeral directors. You and your caregivers are encouraged to contact your hospice team if you’re having a problem, any time of the day or night. There’s always someone on call to help you with whatever may arise. Hospice care assures you and your family that you are not alone and help can be reached at any time.

Respite care

For patients being cared for at home, hospice service may offer respite care to allow friends and family some time away from caregiving. Respite care can be given in up to 5-day periods of time, during which you are cared for either in the hospice facility or in beds that are set aside in nursing homes or hospitals. Families can plan a mini-vacation, go to special events, or simply get much-needed rest at home while you are cared for in an inpatient setting.

Bereavement care

Bereavement is the time of mourning after a loss. The hospice care team works with surviving loved ones to help them through the grieving process. A trained volunteer, clergy member, or professional counselor provides support to survivors through visits, phone calls, and/or other contact, as well as through support groups. The hospice team can refer family members and caregiving friends to other medical or professional care if needed. Bereavement services are often provided for about a year after the patient’s death. To learn more, see our documents Coping With the Loss of a Loved One and Helping Children When a Family Member Has Cancer: When a Child Has Lost a Parent.


Last Medical Review: 04/08/2014
Last Revised: 04/08/2014