Hospice, which is a term used to describe an approach to patient care that focuses on controlling symptoms rather than on curing diseases, is often a beneficial approach towards the treatment of patients with terminal illnesses. The hospice mindset is sometimes referred to as palliative care or end of life care. Often hospice care is initiated when patients have six months or less left yet to live, as estimated by their doctors based on the severity of their underlying diseases. Benefits of hospice for cancer can include improved pain relief, better symptom control, and psychosocial support from a number of different providers. Many patients also choose hospice care because it allows them to spend their last days at home with friends and family members.
One benefit of hospice for cancer is that it allows for optimal pain control. Doctors trained in palliative care can develop medication regimens that effectively manage pain. Often this includes taking a scheduled medication daily, and then also taking extra pain medications for breakthrough pain. Additionally, a number of procedures, such as nerve blocks, can be performed in order to stop a pain at the source.
Another benefit of hospice for cancer is that it allows for improved control of other symptoms. For example, nausea and vomiting can be alleviated either with oral medications, or with procedures that can reduce some of the pressure in the gastrointestinal tract. Some cancer patients in hospice programs can be prescribed oral chemotherapeutic agents, given with the intention to alleviate symptoms caused by growing tumors rather than to eradicate the tumors completely. Other symptoms, such as constipation or diarrhea, can also be treated with the use of prescribed medications.
For many people, one of the most important benefits of hospice for cancer is that it allows them to spend the ends of their lives at home, surrounded by family and friends. Instead of spending time in the hospital suffering from aggressive treatment regimens that are unlikely to cure the underlying advanced cancer, they can stay at home and take medications to control their pain and other uncomfortable symptoms. Many people would prefer to spend their final days in a comfortable and familiar environment, instead of in a sterile and unfamiliar hospital.
Another aspect of hospice for cancer that many people find to be a benefit is that the hospice approach offers patients and their families significant psychosocial support. Often psychiatrists, counselors, and chaplains can be critical members of the hospice treatment team. Many times these professionals can continue to offer support to the friends and the families of the decreased during the bereavement period. A number of patients find comfort in the fact that their loved ones will have this support after their death.