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MAIN Arrow to Society Society Arrow to Death & Dying Death & Dying Arrow to Hospice Care Hospice & End of Life Care

nurse holds hand of hospice patientAs the practice of hospice and palliative care grows in popularity internationally, the World Health Organization defines hospice care as "relief from pain and other distressing symptoms while regarding dying as a normal process."

Further, hospice care "intends neither to hasten or postpone death; and integrates the psychological and spiritual aspects of patient care."

In short, its main purpose is to improve quality of life in the final days. In practice, hospice care often provides final stage cancer patients and terminally ill adults and children with palliative care, or treatment to help relieve disease-related symptoms rather than help cure the disease.

Distinct from primary medical care, treatment in a hospice facility focuses on pain management techniques and medications when necessary. It also often includes psychological counseling for patients as well as for their families with grief and bereavement counseling made available after a loved one dies.

The advantages of hospice care

visiting nurse taking blood pressure of hospice patient
Family support and familiar surroundings
are primary benefits of home hospice care.

Improvement in quality of life is usually viewed as the main advantage to hospice care, which is preferred over more institutionalized care found at modern hospitals.

Hospice care is also more family oriented, as it gives more power to the patient and family in making decisions, and can be administered at home (in the US this is the most preferred setting), or in a nursing home, assisted living facility, or private hospital.

In the US, hospice care is the only Medicare benefit that includes pharmaceuticals, medical equipment, 24/7 access to care, as well as support for loved ones following a death. Hospice care is also covered by Medicaid and most private insurance plans.

In the UK, hospice care is either funded by the National Health Service or via various social agencies and charities, but the service is always free to patients and their families.

In Canada, physician Balfour Mount was the first to coin the term "palliative care" and was a pioneer in the Canadian hospice movement, which initially focused more on palliative care in a hospital setting.

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More information about hospice & palliative care around the Web:

Around the Web, find more information on modern hospice care in the US and worldwide with guides to finding facilities, facts on palliative care and pain management, along with related resources for families and caretakers of the terminally ill:


International Association for Hospice & Palliative Care - Extensive resources include a directory of worldwide hospice care associations and programs, hospice care guidelines, related searchable databases for finding palliative care treatment and related educational resources.

How to Get Palliative Care - Database of US hospitals offering palliative care programs searchable by US state.

Hospice - Wikipedia entry with extensive information on the history and background of the hospice movement dating back to the Middle Ages, with facts on modern advancements in the US, Canada, UK and Africa, and related references and resources.


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