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What is Hospice?

Historically, hospice was a concept rooted in the centuries-old idea of offering a place of shelter and rest, or “hospitality”, to weary and sick travelers who were on long or difficult journeys. Hospices became widespread in medieval Europe with over 750 such institutions in existence in England by the 13th century.

Dame Cicely Saunders founded the first modern hospice in London in 1967. She was the first person to apply the term “hospice” to the specialized care provided for terminally ill patients.

Today, hospice is the term used for an approach to healthcare that is specifically designed to support the physical, emotional and spiritual needs of those who have life-limiting illnesses or conditions. Hospice provides compassionate care and support for those in the last stage of life so they may live their lives as fully and comfortably as possible.

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It is a physician-directed, nurse-coordinated, interdisciplinary approach to patient care that is available on a 24/7/365 basis.

Hospice affirms life and regards dying as a normal process. It neither hastens nor postpones death.

The goal of hospice is to allow the dying process to unfold with a minimum of discomfort and to maintain patient dignity and quality of life to the end.

Hospice is a concept of care, not a specific place of care. Within this concept, the primary location for hospice care is normally the home setting, since the patient feels the greatest level of security and comfort in his/her own familiar environment. However, hospice care also can be provided in other locations where the patient may be residing, such as in assisted living facilities, nursing homes or other long-term care facilities.

Hospice provides a physician-directed, nurse-coordinated, interdisciplinary team approach to personal care. The team, which also includes a Social Worker, Chaplain, home health aide, and volunteer provides personalized training and counseling services with a caring, compassionate attitude. With this approach to care, the patient, caregivers and family are able to obtain the necessary information and preparation for death that is satisfactory to them. They are then better prepared for the reality of the illness and are able to face the last stages of life more comfortably and confidently.

Daily primary care is provided by family members or loved ones. The hospice team is available twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week and 365 days a year to provide training, counseling and hands-on care as guided by the RN Case Manager.

Hospice emphasizes palliative care (i.e. relief of pain and uncomfortable symptoms) rather than curative treatment… and quality, rather than quantity, of life.

Hospice also provides emotional, non-denominational spiritual and practical support based on the wishes and needs of the patient, caregivers and family. Hospice recognizes that every person’s experience will be different and the hospice team, in association with the patient’s primary physician, creates a plan-of-care customized for the individual needs and wishes of each patient. Caregivers and family are also included in this plan-of-care.

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    The key components of hospice care include:
  • Respect for the worth and dignity of each individual
  • Dedication and commitment to the highest quality compassionate care
  • Neither the hastening nor the postponing of death
  • Quality of life as opposed to the length of life
  • Treatment of the patient, rather than the disease
  • Alleviation of pain rather than curative treatment
  • Patient care training and counseling support for the patient, caregiver and family
  • Hands-on care by the Registered Nurse and nursing staff
  • Assistance from the interdisciplinary team on a 24/7/365 basis
  • Bereavement support for families and loved ones after a loss