What Is Hospice?

Posted: April 04, 2011

Hospice is a team approach to care for the dying that supplements family and other care.

Most services are provided in the home, but patients can also be seen in inpatient hospices, nursing homes, and hospitals.

Using palliative care, hospice focuses on easing symptoms, rather than curing a disease. Studies show that patients receiving this type of care often live longer than those getting aggressive cancer treatment.

According to the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization, almost 42 percent of the 2,450,000 Americans who died in 2009 were enrolled in hospice when they died. Forty percent of those died at home. In 2009, 1.6 million people were in hospice, up 7.6 percent from 2008.

Experts believe earlier exposure to palliative care and hospice increases the odds that patients will obtain the care they want as they die.

A typical hospice team includes a nurse, social worker, aide, chaplain, and bereavement specialist. Patients may also see physical, music, or art therapists. The team helps families manage care and pain. Hospice provides medicines and supplies.

The amount and type of hospice help are individualized. An aide may come to the home daily or less frequently to bathe and change the patient and provide assistance. The aide typically stays 90 minutes to two hours. Nurses see the patient several times a week.

Most insurance plans include hospice benefits.

The amount of help individual hospices provide may depend on their budgets and philosophies, hospice leaders said.

- Stacey Burling

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