Hospice care is for people who have learned from doctors that they are not expected to live much longer. It’s about easing pain and helping families prepare for the end of life. Hospice care focuses on the care, comfort, and quality of life of a person who typically has six months or less to live, allowing the illness to run its natural course. It’s about easing pain and helping the patient and their family unit prepare for the end of life.
Typically, curative cancer treatments and active medical management of chronic disease are not part of the care plan unless they control symptoms. This type of care involves doctors, nurses, spiritual health practitioners, social workers, dietary services, alternative therapy (music, art, pet and more), volunteers and family members who support the complex needs and emotions associated with the dying journey. Many municipalities offer hospice care in a facility such as a hospice house or a hospital. You can also receive hospice care in the comforts of your own home (Dying at Home).
Outcomes of Hospice Care
All patients receiving hospice care but people who receive hospice care are much more likely to experience a higher quality of life at the end of their life with a more natural death that doesn’t include the use of many machines or being in the intensive care unit.
Benefits and Considerations
- A hospice house provides a space outside of the home for care and includes 24/7 nursing and respite.
- Hospice recipients are more likely to have their pain controlled and less likely to undergo tests or be given medicines they don’t need, compared with people who don’t use hospice care.
- At home hospice care is dependent on caregiver support, ability and the availability of equipment. This can easily lead to burnout and strain on the family unit if family members are ill-equipped and lack adequate resources and support.
- Late referral and misunderstanding of hospice can prevent you and your family from accessing the support and resources provided by hospice.
Is Hospice Care right for you?
When curative care isn’t an option, and the focus shifts to symptom management and quality of life, hospice care can be considered. Many individuals and families can benefit from hospice care but are unaware of how to access hospice services. It’s important to let health care providers know that hospice care is a consideration and not to wait for them to raise the topic.
An option for people with a non-curable illness can include Medical Assistance in Dying (MAiD). While hospice care, palliative care and MAiD all help to relieve suffering, they each have a different approach to doing so and are often misunderstood. Hospice and palliative care focuses on improving quality of life and managing symptoms to help people live and die well, whereas MAiD aims to lessen suffering by helping an eligible person (as defined by legislation) end their life, when they request it, by administering medications. For more information on MAiD, visit Medical Assistance in Dying.