What is Hospice?

The following is taken from a presentation entitled, “Always to Care: The Soul of End of Life Ethics and Decision Making,” presented by David Hottinger, M.Div. and Chaplain of Hospice of the Twin Cities, and uses information from the National Hospice Foundation.


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Hospice is a special concept of care designed to provide comfort and support to patients and their families when a life-limiting illness no longer responds to cure-oriented treatments.

Hospice care neither prolongs life nor hastens death.

Hospice staff and volunteers offer a specialized knowledge of medical care including pain management.

The goal of hospice care is to improve the quality of a person’s last days by offering comfort and dignity.

Hospice care is provided by a team-oriented group of specially trained professionals, volunteers, and family members.

Hospice addresses all symptoms of a disease with a special emphasis on controlling pain and discomfort.

Hospice helps with the emotional, social, and spiritual impact of the disease on the patient and the patient’s family and friends.

Hospice offers a variety of bereavement and counseling services to families before and after a patient’s death.

The word “hospice” stems from the Latin word “hospitum,” meaning guesthouse.  It was originally used to describe a place of shelter for weary and sick travelers returning from religious pilgrimages.

Hospice is not a place but a concept of care.  At least 80 percent of hospice care is provided in the patient’s home, a family member’s home, and in nursing homes.  Inpatient hospice facilities are also sometimes available.

A patient’s physician must refer the patient to a hospice program.

A person can continue to receive hospice services as long as their condition warrants it.  Sometimes a person’s condition improves, and they become ineligible for hospice.


If you are taking care of an elderly parent who may be considering hospice, check out our blog “Hospice Care—Living While Dying” for additional information.

Julie Ellingson, LSW

October 14, 2013




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