- When should a decision about entering
a hospice program be made and who should make it?
At any time during a life-limiting illness, it's appropriate to discuss
all of the patient's care options, including hospice. By law, the decision
belongs to the patient. Understandably, most people are uncomfortable
with the idea of stopping and all-out effort to "beat" their
disease. Hospice staff members are highly sensitive to these concerns
and are always available to discuss them with the patient, family and
- Should I wait for our physician to raise
the possibility of hospice, or should I raise it first?
The patient and family should feel free to discuss hospice care at any
time with their physician, other healthier professional, clergy, or
friends. Individuals may also call the hospice office nearest to them
When does a patient start receiving
One of the first things hospice will do is contact the patient's
physician to make sure he or she agrees that hospice care is appropriate
as this time. The patient will also be asked to sign consent and insurance
forms, similar to the forms signed when they enter a hospital. The
hospice election form says that the patient understands that the care
is palliative (that is, aimed at pain relief and symptom control)
rather than aimed at seeking a cure. It also includes the services
- Is the home the only place hospice
can be delivered?
No. Although most hospice services are delivered in a personal residence,
many patients live in nursing homes or other long-term care facilities.
- What if our physician doesn't know about
Most physicians know about hospice. If your physician wants more information,
it is available by contacting the hospice office nearest you or the
National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization helpline, at 1-800-658-8898.
- Is hospice only for cancer patients?
No. Anyone whose illness is known to be life-limiting and has six months
or less to live is eligible for hospice care. Hospice care is available
for patients with terminal heart disease, lung disease, Alzheimer's,
kidney failure, liver disease, a senile dementia to name a few.
Must someone be with the patient at
It depends. Many patients, especially if they are receiving
hospice care early in the illness, are able to be left alone. Since
one of the most common fears of patients is the fear of dying alone,
we generally recommend that later on someone be there continuously.
While family and friends must be relied on to give most of the care,
hospice provides volunteers to provide a break and time away for major
- How difficult is caring for a dying
loved on at home?
It's never easy and sometimes can be quite hard. At the end of a long,
progressive illness, nights especially can be very long, lonely and
scary. Hospice staff is available around the clock to help family members
problem solve and to visit should an emergency arise.
- Does hospice do anything to make death
Hospices will do nothing either to speed up or to slow down the dying
process. Just as doctors and midwives lend support and expertise during
the time of child birth, so hospice provides its presence and specialized
knowledge during the dying process.
- Can a hospice patient who shows signs
of recovery be returned to regular medical treatment?
Certainly. If improvements in the condition occurs and the disease seems
to be in remission, the patient can be discharged from hospice and return
to curative therapy.
- Does hospice provide any help to the
family after the patient dies?
Hospice provides continuing contact and support for family and friends
up to 13 months following the death of a loved one through such services
as personal contacts, phone visits, and self-help literature. Support
groups addressing issues related to grief and loss are also available
in some service areas. Contact the hospice nearest you regarding the
availability of any of these services.