Hospice agencies provide end of life care for terminally ill patients, and many of their services focus on to making the last days of a person's life as comfortable as possible. They specialize in medical care and spiritual services. Hospice services offer emotional support and assistance during bereavement for family members.
The services offered by hospice are usually provided to those with a life-limiting condition, and many patients consider hospice care after being diagnosed with an incurable disease. They and their families may reach the final decision to seek palliative care when all medical treatments have been exhausted. Conditions such as cancer or AIDS are common in patients who seek services from a hospice agency.
It is common for hospice care to be carried out at the patient's home instead of a hospital setting as those who choose palliative care outside of a clinical setting often want to spend the remaining days of their life in a comfortable and familiar atmosphere. Licensed home health aides assist patients with everyday tasks such as bathing and eating, and hospice agencies may also provide housekeeping services for their patients.
People seeking services from hospice agencies will be offered several options to cope with the physical pain accompanying their disease. Physicians specializing in end of life care ensure that patients receive the pain medications needed for relief of pain. Over-the-counter pain medication, such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen, may not be effective enough for patients with terminal illnesses, and narcotic medications are frequently prescribed for hospice patients experiencing pain.
Emotional support is important for the patients receiving palliative care and for their loved ones. Experts believe emotional support is necessary for patients without much time left to live, and hospice agencies have social workers and mental health professionals available to assist those in the program. Family members may continue to receive bereavement support several months after a death has occurred. Counselors or volunteers from the hospice agency can recommend support groups during the grieving process.
Hospice care does not postpone death for a patient, but all hospice agencies share the common goal of improving the quality of life for those with incurable diseases. Those who are receiving palliative care can return to their regular medical treatment plan if their condition improves, yet many patients view hospice care as a more realistic approach to focusing on what is attainable within the short time they have left to live. Spiritual counseling can be provided for those who wish to have religious ceremonies performed or who need assistance finding closure with loved ones before death.