Hospice is about improving the quality of the death experience for patients, families and caregivers. The philosophy of the hospice model is to provide compassionate, quality care for people facing terminal illness. This is accomplished with an interdisciplinary team approach so the best medical care, pain control and emotional and spiritual support can be tailored to the individual needs of each patient and family. The hospice philosophy also embodies the belief that each and every person has the right to die with dignity and without pain, and that families should receive the help and support needed to participate in this process.
A person may be eligible for hospice if they
- Have a life expectancy of 6 months or less
- Decide to stop receiving treatment
- Can no longer safely receive treatment
Most hospice programs enable the patient to stay at home. However, some are freestanding hospice centers or are affiliated with hospitals or nursing homes. The hospice team is usually comprised of hospice physicians, nurses, social workers, home health aides, volunteers and chaplains and other pastoral counselors.
Some of the services provided include:
- Pain management
- Emotional and spiritual support
- Family coaching
- Provision of drugs and medical supplies
- Home health aide placement and supervision
You can ask your doctor for a referral or contact the following organizations for more information or a referral to a local hospice:
Physician Order(s) for Life-Sustaining Treatment (POLST)
A POLST are medical orders for a person who is nearing the end of life. These orders may also be referred to as other names, such as "medical order(s) for life-sustaining treatment (MOLST)," and they can differ by state. A POLST form is completed by the doctor with input from the patient or the patient’s healthcare agent. It specifies treatment(s)/intervention(s) the patient wants to receive during a medical emergency. Pain management and comfort care will always be provided. Your loved one may choose to decline other medical interventions. These preferences may have been outlined earlier in your loved one’s advance directive. (Ideally, everyone will have an advance directive. A POLST form is only created for those who are nearing the end of life and is signed by the doctor.) Other orders used in end-of-life care include “do not resuscitate (DNR)” and “allow natural death (AND)” orders which tell healthcare professionals to not attempt CPR. These may be separate orders or included on a POLST form. Ask the hospice or healthcare team for more information.