The term “hospice” may be new to you, but it has been around for a very long time.
In the modern era, hospice has come to mean a place where the terminally ill are cared for by professionals who are trained and have experience in end of life care. This is really a kind of care that is part of what is called “palliative care” and that is defined as care that focuses on providing patients with relief from the symptoms, pain, physical stress, and mental stress of a serious illness—whether the prognosis is death or not. The goal of such therapy is to improve quality of life for both the patient and the family.
It may not be obvious why such a specialization is needed. After all, the general healthcare system – hospitals, doctors, nurses, EMS personnel, etc. – is huge and pretty much available everywhere. But the sad fact is that dying people, and their families, need special care and consideration which is generally not taught to healthcare professionals in their formal training. Simply put: healthcare professionals are taught to concentrate on doing what it takes to make the patient well again. When that is no longer possible, they may try to do it anyway, and that can cause unnecessary pain, anguish, and, sadly, unfounded hope that cannot be fulfilled. All of that leads to even more anguish and makes the inevitable so much more traumatic than it has to be.
Hospice professionals concentrate their training and careers on making the transition to death, for both the patient and their family as well, as dignified and stress-free as possible. They are specialists the end of life.
The first modern hospice was opened in England in 1967. St Christopher’s is still, today, in operation. But since then, hospice has evolved. Today most hospice patients are cared for in their own homes. There are, however, in-patient hospice units for caring for those who are beyond what can be provided in their own homes as well. Additionally, admitting the patient to the in-patient unit can be done to give family members or other caregivers respite form the mental and physical ardors of caring for the terminally ill.
In America today, hospice expenses are covered by Medicare, provided that the care is provided and administered in the approved ways.
More learning resources can be found under the Hospice drop-down menu above, as well as information on how to find a hospice service near you, and specific resources for the bereaved, including bereaved children.