Inpatient hospice care may become necessary when a patient is not able to receive proper medical care in a home setting and has reached the final stages of life. When this type of care becomes necessary, hospice services may be provided in a hospital or an inpatient hospice facility. In order to qualify for this type of intensive end-of-life care, the patient must require around-the-clock medical care or meet certain other criteria. Nurses and other members of the medical staff are available to meet the medical and emotional needs of the patient 24 hours per day. Any specific questions or concerns about inpatient hospice care in an individual situation should be discussed with the supervising physician or members of the hospice staff.
When a person nears the end of life, the family often needs help in meeting the physical, emotional, and medical needs of the patient. In many cases, hospice care can occur in the home, but some situations may require inpatient hospice care. A person usually needs to be evaluated by a doctor and have an expected life expectancy of six months or less in order to qualify for this level of care. At this stage, medical treatment is aimed at keeping the patient as comfortable as possible for the remaining days of life. Life support measures such as oxygen therapy may be used, but the focus of hospice care is not on trying to cure illness, as the patient has already been diagnosed as having an incurable medical condition.
If an inpatient hospice center is not available, services may be provided in a hospital setting. In either case, nurses and other members of the medical staff are available 24 hours per day to monitor the condition of the patient and provide necessary medications and supportive care. Strong pain medications and sedatives are frequently used at this time, especially if the patient has a painful medical condition such as cancer. All medical equipment needed by the patient is provided by hospice.
While most patients are transferred to an inpatient hospice facility during the final days or weeks of life, temporary inpatient care may be provided in some cases. There may be times when the family is overwhelmed by the high level of constant care required by a terminally ill loved one. When the primary caregivers need a break, hospice may provide respite care in an inpatient facility for a few days. Grief counseling and assistance with final preparations are typically provided to the family through the hospice program as well.