What Is Children's Hospice?

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  • Written By: Meshell Powell
  • Edited By: Melissa Wiley
  • Last Modified Date: 14 September 2019
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Children's hospice care is typically a bit more involved than programs designed for adult patients. When a child is deemed by a doctor to have a terminal illness, the medical staff will help the family make arrangements for admittance into the hospice program. Support services available through the children's hospice program include meeting the physical and emotional needs of the patient and family as well as assisting with end-of-life decisions and planning. While hospice care usually focuses primarily on keeping the dying patient comfortable, when the patient is a child, more aggressive medical treatments may be offered. Some children's hospice programs will also offer services to parents who are expecting a baby who is not expected to survive infancy.

In most cases, a doctor must sign a paper stating that the patient is expected to live six months or less in order to gain entrance into a children's hospice program. Some facilities may waive this requirement if the child is diagnosed with a potentially fatal medical condition such as cancer. As there is no way to know for sure how long a person with an incurable illness will survive, children are not usually discharged from the program after the initial six months. Adults who are enrolled in a hospice program are not usually given extensive life-saving treatments, but more aggressive life-saving measures are typically employed when children are involved.


Upon admittance to a children's hospice program, doctors, nurses, and social workers will meet with the family to create a plan of care. Members of the staff will travel periodically to the hospital or home to provide the necessary supportive care to the patient and caregivers. Any medical supplies that are needed are provided by hospice. The nurses may teach the family how to perform some minor procedures.

In addition to administering medications and tending to the physical needs of the patient, the children's hospice program assists the family in making end-of-life decisions and final plans. Grief support and counseling resources are provided at no cost to the family. Respite care is available, allowing the caregivers to get away from the stresses of caring for a terminally ill child while knowing the child is in capable hands.

A growing movement in many children's hospice programs is the addition of perinatal care. This service provides practical and emotional support to parents who have not yet delivered a child, although the infant is not expected to survive after being born. Grief counseling, genetic counseling, and assistance with final preparations begin before the birth of the child.



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