Is hospice care just for cancer patients?

Katie Ortlip
Hospice Nursing

Hospice care is end-of-life care for all people, not just those with cancer. I am currently caring for people with end stage heart disease, emphysema, and old age. About half of our patients have non-cancer diagnoses. As long as you are not seeking aggressive, curative treatment, and the doctor feels you have approximately six months or less to live, you are appropriate for hospice. Hospice focuses on comfort and quality of life, and supports the patient and family.

Juliet Wilkinson
Oncology Nursing
Unequivocally, no. Hospice care is not just for cancer patients. Hospice and palliative care organizations provide care for anyone who qualifies with a life-limiting illness. According to the Medicare hospice explanation of benefits, this includes anyone suffering an illness curbing their life expectancy to six months or less. Patients in hospice do frequently suffer cancer, but they also include those suffering chronic lung disorders, cognitive disorders such as dementia and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis,  or Lou Gehrig's disease.
Dr. Robin Miller, MD
Internal Medicine
Hospice care is end of life care. There are many conditions that may require hospice when patients reach the terminal stage. In addition to cancer, these may include illnesses such as congestive heart failure, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, AIDS and dementia.  

Once the patient and doctors determine that a patient has reached the end of life, hospice can provide care to help alleviate symptoms such as pain, shortness of breath, and anxiety with the help of medications. Many programs offer alternative treatments such as acupuncture and massage.

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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.