What is Hospice Care?

We’ve all heard of hospice care. We know that it is basically end of life care. What we don’t know is what exactly the care entails.

So, what is hospice care? Often home health care and hospice are “lumped” into the same category. The public often has the perception that if someone is a patient of home health care, they must have a terminal illness and be close to death. This could not be farther from the truth. Home health care can be used for a variety of reasons – post-surgical care after hospital discharge, rehabilitation in the home, assistance with management of chronic illness, or help with medications, such as intravenous antibiotics, blood thinner management or chemotherapy in the home.

How does home health care differ from hospice? Hospice certainly can provide the same assistance to its patients as home health care. However, the patient must be terminally ill. While there are terminally ill patients in home health care, hospice patients must have a life expectancy of less than six months. Patients that are terminally ill that have a longer life expectancy often will use home health care, or will enter hospice care once their condition is worsening.

The goal of hospice care is to provide comfort to its patients. Assisting with comfort can be as simple as repositioning the patient in their bed, providing chemotherapy palliatively, and providing pain relief. However, it can be complicated. Hospice staff aim to give comfort to not just the patient, but the loved ones as well. In addition to providing the above services, they may assist with end-of-life concerns, such as discussing unresolved issues and helping to solve the issues. The staff are also trained to ease psychological and emotional pain of death, for both the patient and the family. Appropriate referrals may be made to therapists, who will often come in to the home, if necessary.

Hospice care is multifaceted; it is just not relieving physical pain, but also relieving emotional pain. It is designed so that the patient may leave the world in peace, and for the family to be at peace with the death as well. It helps the patient have a meaningful passing from this world to the next.