Hospice Care

What is Hospice?

Hospice is a compassionate method of caring for terminally ill people and their family and friends. Hospice focuses on caring, not curing and is a medically directed, multidisciplinary team managed program of services that focuses on the patient/family as the unit of care. Hospice has an emphasis on pain and symptom control, so that a person may live the last days of life fully, with dignity and comfort.

When is a patient ready for Hospice?

Hospice is the gold standard method of caring for people at the stage of a terminal illness when no further curative or life-prolonging therapy is available or chosen to be pursued by a patient or family member. Hospice care is for any person who has a life-threatening or terminal illness. Most payment sources require a prognosis of six months or less if the illness runs its normal course.

Who pays for Hospice?

Hospice care is covered under Medicare, Medicaid, most private insurance plans, HMOs, and other managed care organizations.

What happens if I change my mind about hospice?

Hospice is a patient choice entirely. You choose to elect it, and you choose to revoke the benefit or be discharged from it. A patient that elects to be discharged from hospice has the right to re-enter the program so long as they still meet the criteria for hospice eligibility. If a patient is discharged for no longer meeting hospice eligibility, they may re-enter hospice if their condition changes to the point that they now meet hospice eligibility criteria.

Where does Hospice take place?

The majority of hospice patients are cared for in their own homes or the homes of a loved one. “Home” may also be broadly construed to include services provided in nursing homes, assisted living centers, hospitals…wherever the patient considers to be home at the time.


  • The patient’s personal physician
  • Hospice physician (or medical director)
  • Nurses
  • Hospice aides
  • Social workers
  • Spiritual care providers or other counselors
  • Bereavement professionals
  • Speech, physical, and/or other occupational therapists
  • Trained volunteers.

What services are provided?

Among its major responsibilities, the multidisciplinary hospice team:

  • Manages the patient’s pain and symptoms
  • Assists the patient with the emotional and psychosocial and spiritual aspects of dying
  • Provides needed drugs, medical supplies, and equipment
  • Coaches the family on how to care for the patient
  • Delivers special services like physical therapy, speech therapy, and even music and art therapy
  • Makes short-term inpatient care available when pain or symptoms become too difficult to manage at home, or the caregiver needs respite time
  • Provides bereavement care and counseling to surviving family and friends

What is the Difference Between Palliative Care and Hospice Care?

Patients in palliative care may receive medical care for their symptoms, or palliative care, along with treatment intended to cure their serious illness. Palliative care is meant to enhance a person's current care by focusing on quality of life for them and their family.

Like palliative care, hospice provides comprehensive comfort care as well as support for the family, but, in hospice, attempts to cure the person's illness are stopped. Hospice is provided for a person with a terminal illness whose doctor believes he or she has six months or less to live if the illness runs its natural course.

While the objective of both hospice and palliative care is pain and symptom relief, the prognosis and goals of care tend to be different. Hospice is comfort care without curative intent; the patient no longer has curative options or has chosen not to pursue treatment because the side effects outweigh the benefits. Palliative care is comfort care with or without curative intent.