Skip to Main Content

What to Expect When a Loved One Enters Hospice Care

August 08, 2015 Posted in: Family Health , Article

In some instances, medical treatment decisions are relatively easy: We get sick, our doctors prescribe a treatment, and we get better. But people who have run out of options to cure their illness often face difficult decisions regarding their treatment choices and end-of-life care. Their choices have a big impact on quality of life during their final days.

Each year, more than 1.5 million Americans who are nearing end of life decide to receive hospice care, according to the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization (NHPCO), but many others who might benefit don't seek these services, perhaps due to misconceptions, fears, or a lack of information.

What Hospice Is — and What It's Not

There may be some confusion about what one can expect from hospice. A common misconception is that it is a "last resort" and means that a person is giving up hope, while some think it means a lower level of medical care or a way of denying treatment for a life-limiting illness.

In reality, though, hospice is not about giving up. If a person is no longer responding to curative treatment, hospice supports the highest possible quality of life for whatever time remains. It focuses on managing a patient's pain and other symptoms so they can spend their last days living comfortably in a setting they choose, surrounded by family and friends. It also helps family members manage the physical and emotional hardship of caring for a dying loved one.

Who Uses Hospice?

Hospice care is for people with a terminal illness who are expected to live six months or less. It is often associated with cancer patients, but others who receive hospice care may have heart disease, dementia, or lung disease. Typically, patients are concerned with the quality of their end-of-life period and can benefit from the specialized emotional and spiritual support of staff members.

What Happens in Hospice Care?

Hospice care starts as soon as a referral is made by the patient's doctor. Once admitted, the patient, family members, and a dedicated hospice care team will develop a plan that meets the patient's specific needs and wishes. The care team can include a primary care doctor, hospice doctor, nurse, spiritual care professional, home health aide, social worker, and pharmacist. Speech, physical, and occupational therapists are available if needed.

Hospice services can be provided at home but are also available at hospitals, nursing homes, assisted-living facilities, and dedicated hospice facilities. Staff members visit patients regularly and provide additional care or other services as needed 24/7.

Hospice is covered by Medicare, Medicaid, private insurance, and HMOs. If you're considering hospice for yourself or a loved one, check with your insurer for information about what services their plan covers. Many hospices will also help those who are unable to pay.

To learn more about hospice programs in your area, talk to a local doctor, nurse, or social worker, or contact your local or state office concerning aging. The NHPCO has an online provider directory at

Image source: Flickr

5 Questions Women Should Ask Their Primary Care Physician

MAR 01, 2023

Going to the doctor can be stressful. Whether for a general exam or a specific health problem, there is often so much information to process that we don't think to ask questions during our visit or simply feel embarrassed to ask.

Read More Additional information about Dignity Health | 5 Questions Women Should Ask Their Primary Care Physician

The Importance of Prenatal Vitamins

SEP 12, 2022

It's important to remember that vitamins and supplements cannot take the place of a healthy diet. For example, pregnant women should eat multiple servings of fresh green vegetables and foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids. Higher doses of certain vitami...

Read More Additional information about Dignity Health | *

Breastfeeding for Working Moms: 5 Tips to Guide You

SEP 12, 2022

It's often said that breastfeeding is a full-time job. And in those first few weeks of motherhood, when it feels like you're feeding constantly, it certainly can be. But what happens a few months later when you have to go back to work?

Read More Additional information about Dignity Health | How to Make Breastfeeding for Working Moms Easy