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The word "hospice" literally means "a place of shelter." Today, the "place of shelter" is not so much a physical location as it is a service that helps a patient who is terminally ill to die with dignity and peace. Hospice care is also the type of care provided to support a terminally ill patient at home or wherever he or she lives. Care usually involves relieving troublesome symptoms and providing psychological and social support for the patient and family. The goal of hospice care is to not only provide the terminally ill patient and the family with a comfortable death experience, but to also enable the person to live to the fullest, even with a terminal prognosis.
To qualify for hospice care, a patient usually has a life expectancy of less than six months.
Research has shown that hospice care at home helps the entire family. Family members are encouraged to take an active role in providing supportive care to the patient. In doing so, the family experiences fewer feelings of helplessness and the patient is not relying soley on strangers for all of his/her care.
Although many patients receive hospice care at home, hospice care can also take place in other settings, including:
Hospice services are similar to home health care services, but also include: