How is hospice different from other types of healthcare?

Juliet Wilkinson
Oncology Nursing

In its' most basic form, health care can be divided into three main categories: curative, palliative or promoting wellness. Your annual blood pressure screening or mammogram are examples of wellness-promoting health care. A surgery to correct a hang nail is a curative method. Offering acetaminophen to a patient suffering a fever is palliative -- you are not looking to cure the root cause, simply to provide the patient comfort. Although technically they are not the same, hospice is a form of palliative care. Hospice care organizations do not treat the conditions causing the life-limiting illness (e.g. providing chemotherapy for cancer) although they do promote the comfort of the individual by methods such as providing medications for a yeast infection from too many antibiotics or pain medication for a bone tumor.

There are many things about hospice care that set it apart from other types of health care.
A team of professionals
In most cases, an interdisciplinary health care team manages hospice care. This means that many interacting disciplines work together to care for the patient. Doctors, nurses, social workers, counselors, home health aides, clergy, therapists, and trained volunteers care for you. Each of these people offers support based on their special areas of expertise. Together, they then give you and your loved ones complete palliative care aimed at relieving symptoms and giving social, emotional, and spiritual support.
Pain and symptom control
The goal of pain and symptom control is to help you be comfortable while allowing you to stay in control of and enjoy your life. This means that side effects are managed to make sure that you are as free of pain and symptoms as possible, yet still alert enough to enjoy the people around you and make important decisions.
Spiritual care
Hospice care also tends to your spiritual needs. Since people differ in their spiritual needs and religious beliefs, spiritual care is set up to meet your specific needs. It may include helping you to look at what death means to you, helping you say good-bye, or helping with a certain religious ceremony or ritual.

Home care and inpatient care
Although hospice care can be centered in the home, you may need to be admitted to a hospital, extended-care facility, or a hospice inpatient facility. The hospice can arrange for inpatient care and will stay involved in your care and with your family. You can go back to in-home care when you and your family are ready.

Respite care
While you are in hospice, your family and caregivers may need some time away. Hospice service may offer them a break through respite care, which is often offered in up to 5-day periods. During this time you will be cared for either in the hospice facility or in beds that are set aside for this in nursing homes or hospitals. Families can plan a mini-vacation, go to special events, or simply get much-needed rest at home while you are cared for in an inpatient setting.

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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.