Hospice care, unlike home health care, provides treatment to manage pain and symptoms associated with a terminal illness. In addition, hospice care gives support — emotionally, spiritually, and socially — to the patient and the family. The goal of hospice is to provide comfort and care, not "cure" the illness or disease, like home health care. Pain and symptom control are the goals of all hospice services. Hospice care strives to enable the person who is terminally ill to enjoy life to the fullest. Types of hospice care services provided depend on the patient's needs and preferences. Services may include:
Nursing care. In consultation with the doctor, a registered nurse will set up a plan of care. Nursing care may involve administering medication, monitoring the condition of patient, controlling pain, and providing other health support.
Medical social services. Medical social workers provide various services to the patient, including counseling and locating community resources to help the patient and his or her family. Some social workers are also the patient's case manager when the patient's medical condition is very complex and requires coordination of many services.
Doctor services. The doctor plays an important role in determining the plan of care with the hospice care team.
Spiritual services. Depending on the patient's religious or spiritual beliefs, hospice care can include support from clergy or other spiritual counselors for the patient and the family.
Home care aide or homemaker services. Home health aides can help the patient with his or her basic personal needs, such as getting out of bed, walking, bathing, and dressing. Some aides have received specialized training to assist with more specialized care under supervision of a nurse. A homemaker or attendant can maintain the household with meal preparation, laundry, grocery shopping, and other housekeeping chores.
24-hour care or on-call care. Hospice care teams are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Visits or phone consultations can be made at any time of day.
Hospice inpatient care. At times, it may become necessary to move the hospice patient from the home to a hospital or other care facility. This may occur when it is too difficult to manage a particular symptom in the home setting. The hospice can arrange this care and then resume hospice care when appropriate.
Volunteer care. Volunteers are often part of hospice care teams, providing services ranging from companionship to carpooling. Volunteers often fill in the gaps for families dealing with a terminal illness and provide support for both the patient and the family.
Physical, occupational, and/or speech therapy. As a terminal illness progresses, the patient may lose his or her ability to accomplish basic daily tasks such as dressing or feeding. Physical, occupational, and/or speech therapists can work with the patient to find new ways to accomplish lost functions.
Respite care. Caring for a terminally ill patient 24 hours a day can be exhausting for a family. Respite care gives the family a much needed break by arranging for up to 5 days of inpatient stay or extra services in the home.
Bereavement support. Care for the family does not end with the death of a patient. The hospice care team works with the surviving family members to help them cope with the grieving process. Bereavement support may include counseling, support groups, or medical referrals. Bereavement follow up with the patient's loved ones may be provided for a year or more after the death of the patient.