Hospice care, sometimes called palliative care or end-of-life care, is a special kind of care designed to provide compassion and support for individuals who are facing life-limiting illness and their families. Rather than a place for care, hospice is a philosophy of care – a program of care and support that envelopes the person and family wherever there is a need.
Originally, the concept of hospice palliative care began when a cure was no longer sought for those who had an advanced illness. The goal of that care was to help people live each day to the fullest—a focus on the quality rather the quantity of their remaining days. In so doing, hospice care was intended to help people remain pain free and alert, so that they could spend their remaining time with dignity and comfort.
Today, hospice care recognizes the additional need to provide information and support early—optimally, when a diagnosis of a life-threatening illness is first given. It is at this very difficult time that people need honest information and a variety of supports and assistance that can help them access health and home care services that may be unfamiliar to them. Many life-threatening illnesses have chronic symptoms, and people are able to manage their disease with support and treatment and, actually enhance their quality of life.
Most importantly, hospice care is about enabling people to continue to be a part of both their home environment and their community, while at the same time embarking upon treatment for the symptoms of an illness. Taking an active part in their own care plan and continuing with activities as long as possible help to nurture and maintain a person’s sense of self. Each person’s quality of life should reflect their individual values—what matters to them and what they care about.
A team of health care professionals, family, friends and volunteers provide the care by working together to provide options for care and to sensitively meet the individual’s choices and needs. Care may take place at home, in a residential care facility, in a hospice, or in a hospital depending on the person’s needs and choices. Anticipatory grief support is often of value to family members and friends.
Bereavement services are also an important component, offered to family and friends in need of support as they continue with their own lives after the loss of a loved one.
Good hospice care involves meeting physical, emotional, spiritual and practical needs of individuals, including the need to:
Maintain independence and control over their lives
Participate in decisions concerning their care
Have their questions answered honestly
Be heard and receive emotional support
Know they are not alone
Have the quality of life that they choose
Be free of the judgments of others
Validate their lives
Be cared for by caring, sensitive people