We'll Sing in the Sunshine,

© Gale Garnett

Above photograph courtesy of

Glenn McGaha Miller, Photographer

What is Hospice?

The term "hospice" originated in medieval times when it was used to describe a place of shelter and rest for weary or sick travelers on long journeys. The modern hospice movement began in 1967 when Dr. Cicely Saunders, a British physician, established St. Christopher's Hospice near London. Her program included a team of professional care givers for each patient, and was the first to combine the compassionate care for the dying, which hospices have always offered, with modern pain and symptom control techniques.


Today hospice care is for the patient whose illness is no longer responding to aggressive curative therapies. Hospice addresses all the symptoms of the disease with special emphasis on controlling the patient's pain and discomfort. Hospice also deals with the emotional, social, and spiritual impact of the disease on the patient, the patient's family, and significant others.


A hospice team consists of physicians, nurses, aides, social workers, spiritual care givers, counselors, therapists, and volunteers - all of whom are specially trained to provide pain and symptom management for the patient and support for the family. The patient and family are the core of the hospice team and are at the center of all decision making.


The Goal

The goal of all hospice programs is to improve the quality of the patient's last days and weeks of life by offering comfort and dignity. To do this, the hospice conducts an evaluation of the patient's physical condition, pain, support system, and environment. Because each patient's/family's needs are unique, a hospice team works with the patient and family to develop a personalized care plan. The delivery of the plan by an interdisciplinary team distinguishes hospice care from ordinary homecare.


The hospice brings this caring team right to the patient's home, be it a house, apartment, nursing home, assisted living setting, or residential hospice.


Family members are encouraged to participate in the care by visiting regularly, bringing favorite music or food, and by providing as much hands-on support as is comfortable, such as feeding, bathing, reading favorite books, or just being present.


When care is delivered in the patient's house or apartment the hospice provides instruction, assistance and support for the family. When hospice care is delivered in a facility, much attention is paid to making the environment and care planning as patient-friendly as possible.


Always, the focus is on controlling pain, managing symptoms, providing comfort, dignity and quality of life.