Hospice: What it is and What it isn’t

When Mrs. Smith was diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer, she immediately began treatment. But rounds upon rounds of chemotherapy seemed to have no effect and her doctor gave her a 6months prognosis.  After a year, she asked to be moved to a hospice care facility. Her friends thought she was giving up on life, but she reassured them that she what she really wanted was to be more comfortable and in control of her final days.

Hospice care refers to specialized, high-quality care provided near the end of one's life. Hospice care affirms life but accepts death as the final stage of life. The key focus is providing terminally-ill individuals with compassion, comfort, dignity, support, and a level of control over their lives as they prepare for death. 

Hospice care is not a common part of health conversations, even doctors are wary of introducing the option to patients and their families. 

Here's what you should really know about hospice.

Hospice: What it is…

It is a care program towards the end of life

Hospice is typically for people who have been given a short prognosis measured in months instead of years. Often, hospice care is recommended if a person is anticipated to live six months or less. In some countries, hospice care is covered by health insurance policies and life insurance policies. 

*Prognosis refers to a doctor's prediction about a person's health based on medical tests and the progression of a disease. *

It is a holistic care center

Hospices focus on holistic care of the individual rather than curative care. The aim is not to treat or improve health conditions but to ensure that the person is comfortable despite the illness. Usually, care revolves around emphasizing comfort, improving quality of life, and reducing chronic pain. For instance, a cancer patient would not be admitted to radiation or chemotherapy treatment but would be given painkillers to reduce pain. 

They also provide services that cover other aspects of living such as occupational therapy, grief counselling, social work, and spiritual services. As a result, a typical hospice team consists of doctors, nurses, therapists, counsellors, social workers, religious personnel, and volunteers.

It is a flexible form of care

Hospice care isn't limited to hospice centers. It can be provided in the person's home, in a care home, and as an out-patient service (person visits the hospice). Infact, practitioners refer to hospice care as a style of care instead of a specific location of practice. 

Hospices are more concerned with providing individualized care.

What it isn't…..

It isn't a final care facility: Admission to a hospice doesn't mean life must end after six months. People can enjoy hospice benefits for longer than six months if their health remains stable. The hospice doctor regularly accesses the health of the patient and they may decide to extend an hospice stay. 

In some cases, a person can even be discharged. If the doctor accesses a person's health to have improved over time or the individual decides to seek more curative treatment, they can be discharged.  

It isn't a sign that you have given up on life

Opting for hospice care does not mean you have given up on life, instead it shows that you have chosen to live life as comfortably as possible until the end. Sometimes, people get tired of constant medications with no improvements or believe they have lived a good life and do not want any further desperate attempts at curing an illness that may be incurable. Hospice care provides a way to live fully on their own terms.


Hospice care is a good care option for the terminally ill, but it can be a sensitive decision to make. Remember that the individual has the final say about what kind of care they want to receive. At any point in time, it is alright to withdraw from hospice care and receive more specific treatment. 

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