Hospice care services
Many features of hospice care set it apart from other types of health care.
A team of professionals
In most cases, an interdisciplinary health care team manages hospice care. This means that many interacting disciplines work together. Doctors, nurses, social workers, counselors, home health aides, clergy, therapists, and trained volunteers care for you and your family. Each of these people offers support based on their special areas of expertise. Together, they give you and your loved ones complete palliative care aimed at relieving symptoms and giving social, emotional, and spiritual support.
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 still alert enough to enjoy the people around you and make important decisions. To learn more on this topic, please see our document, Pain Control: A Guide for Those With Cancer and Their Loved Ones.
Since people differ in their spiritual needs and religious beliefs, spiritual care is set up to meet your specific needs. It may include helping you look at what death means to you, helping you say good-bye, or helping with a certain religious ceremony or ritual.
Home care and inpatient care
Although hospice care can be centered in your 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.
While you are in hospice, your family and caregivers may need some time away. Hospice service may offer them a break through respite care, which is often offered in up to 5-day periods. During this time you will be cared for either in the hospice facility or in beds that are set aside for this 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.
Regularly scheduled family conferences, often led by the hospice nurse or social worker, keep family members informed about your condition and what to expect. Family conferences also give you all a chance to share feelings, talk about what to expect and what is needed, and learn about death and the process of dying. Family members can find great support and stress relief through family conferences. Daily conferences may also be held informally as the nurse or nursing assistant talks with you and your caregivers during their routine visits.
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 letter contact, as well as through support groups. The hospice team can refer family members and care-giving 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 on this topic, please 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.
Hospice volunteers play an important role in planning and giving hospice care in the United States. Volunteers may be health professionals or lay people who provide services that range from hands-on care to working in the hospice office or fundraising.
Hospice care staff members are kind and caring. They communicate well, are good listeners, and are interested in working with families who are coping with a life-threatening illness. They are usually specially trained in the unique issues surrounding death and dying. Yet, because the work can be emotionally draining, it is very important that support is available to help the staff with their own grief and stress. Ongoing education about the dying process is also an important part of staff support.
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 are having a problem, any time of the day or night. There is 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.
Last Medical Review: 03/18/2011
Last Revised: 03/18/2011