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Hospice Gives Hope

Quality of Life at the End of Life


Hospice Gives Hope
@Rebecca Emery, Getty Images

Each of us has the right to die pain-free and with dignity, and that our loved ones will receive the necessary support to allow us to do so. That is the belief of the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization and is reflected in the work that hospice providers do around the country. Yet hospice is very misunderstood. Let’s start clearing this up.

Hospice and palliative care involve a team-oriented approach to expert medical care, pain management, and emotional and spiritual support expressly tailored to the person’s needs and wishes.

Hospice focuses on caring, not curing and, in most cases; care is provided in the person’s home. It can also be provided in freestanding hospice centers, hospitals, and nursing homes and other long-term care facilities.

Hospice services are available to patients of any age, religion, race, or illness and services are covered under Medicare, Medicaid, most private insurance plans, HMOs, and other managed care organizations.

Team Approach

Hospice care is a family-centered approach that includes, at a minimum, a teamof doctors, nurses, home health aides, social workers, chaplains, counselors, and trained volunteers. They work together focusing on the dying person’s needs; physical, emotional, or spiritual. The goal is to help keep the person as pain-free as possible, with loved ones nearby until death. The hospice team develops a care plan that meets each person's individual needs for pain management and symptom control.


Hospice is paid for through the Medicare Hospice Benefit, Medicaid Hospice Benefit, and most private insurers. If a person does not have coverage through Medicare, Medicaid or a private insurance company, hospice will work with the person and their family to ensure needed services can be provided.

Referral Process

Anyone can inquire about hospice services. A caregiver may call a local hospice and request services. The hospice staff will then contact the person’s physician to determine if a referral to hospice is appropriate. Likewise, a physician can make a referral to hospice.

Hospice can begin as soon as a the referral is made by the person’s doctor. The hospice staff will then contact the person referred to set up an initial meeting to review the services the hospice will offer and sign the necessary consent forms for care to begin. Usually, care is ready to begin within a day or two of a referral. However, in urgent situations, service may begin sooner.

Choosing a Hospice

These are common questions that people may ask of hospice providers. They can also talk to people they trust who work in healthcare or aging services or who have received support from a hospice such as physicians, nurse, other healthcare professionals, social workers, clergy, and other counselors.

Here are some of the questions you can expect:

  • What services are provided?
  • What kind of support is available to the family/caregiver?
  • What roles do the attending physician and hospice play?
  • What does the hospice volunteer do?
  • How does hospice work to keep the patient comfortable?
  • How are services provided after hours?
  • How and where does hospice provide short-term inpatient care?
  • With which nursing homes or long-term care facilities does the hospice work?
  • How long does it typically take the hospice to enroll someone once the request for services is made?

National Organization

The National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization (NHPCO) is the largest nonprofit membership organization representing hospice and palliative care programs and professionals in the United States. The organization is committed to improving end of life care and expanding access to hospice care with the goal of profoundly enhancing quality of life for people dying in America and their loved ones.

With headquarters in Alexandria, Virginia, the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization advocates for the terminally ill and their families. It also develops public and professional educational programs and materials to enhance understanding and availability of hospice and palliative care; convenes frequent meetings and symposia on emerging issues; provides technical informational resources to its membership; conducts research; monitors Congressional and regulatory activities; and works closely with other organizations that share an interest in end of life care.

Source: National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization

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