Hospice refers to the specialized care for patients considered terminally ill.

It began in 1948 outside of London by Dr. Dame Cicely Saunders. The idea was brought to the US in 1963. Prior to the introduction of hospice, generations cared for the generations before them, or, the terminally ill spent their remaining days in hospitals. This process, however, began to become traumatic for the caregivers. Families would stop using a particular bedroom, claiming, “We don’t go in there. Mom died in there.”

Hospice is considered an end of life service designed for patients who are expected to live less than 6 months. Some people choose to spend that time in a nursing home, at home, or with a caregiver. Hospice care can also include care for the caregiver in regards to emotional support and the temporary relief of care duties, also called respite care.

Elizabeth Kuber-Ross, a specialist in the area of death and dying, argued that terminal patients should be given choices about where they would receive treatment- whether in an institution or at home. She believed in end of life dignity and was a huge proponent of hospice care to give “the families and the patients the spiritual, emotional, and financial help in order to facilitate the final care at home.” source: http://www.ekrfoundation.org/quotes/

Nursing homes, including skilled nursing facilities, have become the place many terminally ill people chose due to the Medicare benefit that assists in payment. However, many people argue these are not the best places for end of life needs. Patients spend thousands of dollars to live in these places and it has become about profits and business for many facilities.

Hospice also has evolved into high quality facilities built for people to pass in. Special nurses, volunteers and staff now assist the terminal patients and their families with everything from pain relief to grief counseling. True hospice needs compassionate people, not big profits. The focus should be the patients, not just in administering pain medications, but in providing a quality of life.

Hospice was meant to let people live their final days, not merely exist.
-Mike Heflebower

When you or a loved one is faced with the decisions about end of life matters, consider speaking to a someone who specializes in end of life arrangements. A funeral director can assist with understanding the variety of care and help sort out the financial pieces to help with the difficult but necessary steps to assist with a true celebration of life, while the terminally ill person is still living or not.