Hospice care is provided to a person with a terminal illness at the end of his or her life. This care usually takes place in the patient's home, but may also be provided in a hospice center or hospital. Hospice services generally focus on both the patient and his or her family. Services typically include pain management, nursing and physician care, medical social services, a home health care aid, and spiritual support. Additional services for the family may include respite care and bereavement support after the death of the patient.
When no other curative measures can be taken for a patient, pain management usually becomes the main concern. Hospice services normally include a full pain management plan to keep the patient feeling as comfortable as possible. A hospice nurse can usually administer any pain medication prescribed by a doctor. As a patient's health deteriorates, his or her doctor commonly adjusts pain drugs as needed.
Doctors and nurses are essential to a patient's hospice care plan. A doctor oversees all aspects of the hospice care provided, and a nurse carries out the plan by monitoring the patient's health, giving medications, and providing any other medical care that is needed. Hospice can include the services of a home care aid as well. A person in this position generally helps the patient with his or her daily personal needs, such as bathing and dressing.
Hospice services may also include medical social services and spiritual matters. A social worker often works with the patient and his or her family to find any necessary counseling. This professional may also be in charge of coordinating all of the services a patient requires. If the patient is religious or spiritual, a member of the clergy or other adviser may visit to provide comfort in that area of a patient's care.
Hospice services are usually provided in the patient's home, as that is where most people want to live out their lives. Members of a patient's hospice care team then visit the patient on a regular basis. In some cases, a patient may be provided with this care in a hospice center or hospital. Most hospice providers offer their care 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
While the main concern of hospice care is helping a patient who is near the end of his or her life, hospice teams also work closely with the patient's family to provide support to them as well. Caring for a terminally ill person can be very difficult for a family member, so a hospice is able to provide respite care. This occurs when a patient is cared for, around the clock, for a short period of time in order to give family members a much-needed break. After the patient passes away, hospice caregivers often offer bereavement support to help the family deal with the loss.