Hospice seeks to “de-institutionalize” the dying
experience and provide a more humane system of care
for those who have received a terminal diagnosis of
six months or less. The first hospice program
in this country was opened in New Haven, Connecticut
in 1972; this was based on the Hospice Model of Care
developed by Dame Cicely Saunders at St.
Christopher’s Hospice in Great Britain.
Currently, there are over 3,000 hospices in the
United States and Puerto Rico.
Hospice is a concept of caring that brings comfort
and support to people facing a terminal illness, and
to their families. Hospice addresses all the
symptoms of the disease with special emphasis on
controlling pain and discomfort, allowing the
patient and family to focus on maintaining quality
of life. Hospice also deals with the
emotional, social and spiritual impact of the
disease on the patient, the patient’s family, and
significant others. Hospice care brings this comfort
and support directly into the family’s home enabling
the patient to spend his or her final days in a
familiar and loving environment.
A hospice team consists of physicians, nurses,
aides, social workers, spiritual care givers,
counselors, therapists, and volunteers – all of whom
are specially trained to provide pain and symptom
management for the patient and support for the
family or other intimate network. Physicians
who have been active in the patient’s care are
encouraged to be part of this interdisciplinary
Because each person’s needs are unique, the hospice
team works with the patient and family to develop a
personalized care plan which ensures that the
patient and family are at the center of all decision
making. Always, the focus is on controlling
pain, managing symptoms, and providing comfort,
dignity and quality of life.
A unique characteristic of hospice care is the
availability of bereavement resources that are an
integral part of the hospice philosophy.
Hospices have trained professionals working to
assist the patient and family with the many aspects
of grief which are present during the illness and
then continue to provide bereavement services to the
family for at least one year following the death.
Their experience and understanding of the issues
relating to grief, loss, and bereavement have led
many hospices to serve as bereavement resources for
their local community. Many hospices have
support groups and other bereavement services
available to serve people in need that have not been
Hospice is an aggressive medical choice that focuses
on symptom management, comfort, dignity, and quality
of life. Hospice neither lengthens life nor
Whenever possible, patients are cared for in their
own, or a family member’s, home. However, many
hospices have facilities that provide the same care
for hospice patients and their support networks.
Hospice care is also available in nursing homes and
other assisted living settings.
Hospice workers provide the patient and family with
information and opportunities to participate in the
decision making process.
Data shows that hospice care is less costly than
care in a hospital.
The Medicare Hospice Benefit covers 100% of hospice
services. Many private insurance plans, HMO’s,
and Medicaid in many states also offer hospice
Bereavement care and resources are available to the
family for at least one year; no other healthcare
delivery system offers such support.
The patient, family, and/or physician can initiate
an information/referral call or visit as soon as a
terminal disease is diagnosed, or at the time a
patient decides to move from a treatment plan
focused on curing the disease to a plan focused on
providing comfort and pain relief.
Jon Radulovic is the Communications Director for the
Hospice Foundation of America. For more information
about hospice and other available resources, contact
Hospice Foundation of America at 1-800-854-3402 or
visit our Web site at: www.hospicefoundation.org.