All About Hospice

Hospice care involves a team approach bringing together medical care, pain management, and emotional and spiritual support to patients and their families. This care is provided in either the patient's home or a home-like setting of an inpatient hospice facility. Those who receive hospice care are at the advanced stages of their disease. The mission of hospice staff and volunteers is to address the symptoms of an illness with the intent of promoting comfort and dignity. They are experts at pain management.


According to the American Hospice Foundation, hospice is "comprehensive care in the last months of life. Hospice services are provided by a team of doctors, nurses, social workers, grief and spiritual counselors, physical therapists, home health aides, and volunteers. Wherever possible, care is provided at home." But when it can't be, hospice care is provided at a home-like inpatient facility.

Many people are of the misconception that hospice is a place where people with cancer go to die. First of all, about 80 percent of hospice care is provided in the home. And secondly, although many of the people they care for are dying of cancer, they also help those dying of the end stages of chronic diseases like heart disease, emphysema, and Alzheimer's. Hospice provides care for all ages.

Based upon my personal experience with hospice and my professional work training hospice volunteers, I can't reinforce enough to you how helpful hospice can be to you and your family. Hospice can manage your parent's pain, help you understand what your mom or dad is going through, and help you cope with your own emotions. Although death is a natural part of life, it still remains a mystery. We are often at a loss regarding what we should do before and at the time of death. The hospice folks can get you through it at your own pace. They also stay in touch with you following your loved one's death.

When to Call for Hospice

Hospice care is meant to help your parent (and the family) through the last stages of an illness. The eligibility rules of Medicare set definite parameters of when to seek hospice care. A physician and the hospice medical director must confirm that your parent has a life expectancy of less than six months. Your parent must also agree that he or she will not pursue treatments for curing the terminal illness.

So, if your mom is aware of her terminal illness, she's decided that she's not going to seek any life- extending procedures, and she would like to die at home, then hospice is an excellent option for her. If you decide that you want to give a dying-at-home experience for her, then I'd highly recommend calling in hospice to help you with the care and respite that you'll surely need. Be sure to work with your mom's family doctor on this decision. The doctor is the one to make the referral. Hospice care will also save you and your family from financial hardship.

More on: Aging Parents


Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Caring for Aging Parents © 2001 by Linda Colvin Rhodes, Ed.D. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

To order this book visit the Idiot's Guide web site or call 1-800-253-6476.


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