Who provides hospice care?

Philip Lisagor, MD
Thoracic Surgery (Cardiothoracic Vascular)
Hospice care is based on a team concept in which care is coordinated among doctors, nurses, home health aides, social workers, clergy or other bereavement counselors, therapists, nutritional counselors, volunteers and a primary caregiver. Hospice care begins when the person who is terminally ill, a primary caregiver or healthcare surrogate visit with the hospice admission team. They then create a specific plan of care and schedule subsequent visits by the nurse, social worker and others.
Juliet Wilkinson
Oncology Nursing

Hospice care organizations are comprised of a hand-picked staff specially formulated to meet the needs of the patient and family during life limiting illnesses. This team is aptly named the interdisciplinary team, due to the multitude of disciplines working together as a team. Hospice care provider teams are composed of doctors, nurses, social workers, home health aides, chaplains, volunteers, bereavement counselors, pharmacists, the list of people who can and do support the hospice mission are endless. There is no one part of the interdisciplinary team who provides 'more' care than another; each discipline brings a special skill set to the table to meet the needs of those we care for at the time it is needed.

Hospice care is a team effort. Caregivers work with trained healthcare professionals who will assist with the care of the patient as they guide the patient and his or her loved ones through the hospice care. The following is an overview of hospice professionals and their roles.
  • Hospice physician: Oversees the plan of care; orders medications (unless the primary physician prefers to do this); works with the patient’s oncologist or primary care physician; provides consultation or primary care when necessary.
  • Hospice registered nurse: Trains caregivers to care for the physical and medical needs of the patient; monitors patient’s condition; works with the physician to order medications, medical equipment, and supplies; provides support.
  • Hospice aide: Assists with personal care needs such as feeding, bathing, grooming, and toileting.
  • Social worker: Offers emotional support for all involved; links caregivers and families to community resources; can help with practical matters such as insurance, finances and legal matters.
  • Chaplain (pastoral counselor or other spiritual advisor): Offers support to patient and loved ones to explore spiritual or faith-based issues, if requested; works with patient’s clergy, if appropriate, to make sure spiritual needs are being met; discusses spiritual questions that may be important during advanced cancer.
  • Volunteers: If requested, can assist the patient and caregivers in a variety of ways, including respite care and companionship
  •   Grief and bereavement counselor: Provides grief and loss counseling after death occurs; assists caregivers and loved ones to deal with death or any type of loss including the loss of physical abilities.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.