What is Hospice?

iStock_000001461778_LargeThe end of life is a topic that makes most people uncomfortable.  It’s not something that we like to talk about, and the word “hospice” is just another word that most people associate with death. While it’s true that hospice is a type of treatment that is only for patients in their last months of life, there are some things that distinguish hospice from other care:

Hospice is about keeping patients and their families comfortable.  Hospice was created to provide an alternative to traditional hospital passing.  The focus is not on prolonging life at all costs.  Instead, hospice nurses and physicians aim to ease patient suffering and help family members cope.  Compared to a hospital, where patients often receive invasive and painful medical procedures in an effort to avoid death, hospice patients receive medication and care with the sole purpose of decreasing suffering.

Hospice and palliative care are similar, but not quite the same thing.  Palliative care is a type of medicine designed to help patients deal with any severe illness.  Hospice, on the other hand, is specifically for people who have had a terminal diagnosis.

Hospice requires physician certification.  Because hospice is only for patients who are in their last six months of life, you have to have a doctor’s permission to be admitted to a hospice program.  Medicare, Medicaid, and private insurance cover hospice care in most cases. If you or a loved one are facing a terminal illness, talk to your physicians about how to manage pain, discomfort, and other problems.