Commentary: What Is Hospice Care?

Recently, former President Jimmy Carter shared that he and his family have opted for hospice care – are you wondering what this means?

Hospice is a specialized form of medical care provided by an interdisciplinary team of health care providers caring for patients at and near the end of life.  It is a philosophy of care that helps patients with life-limiting disease live as fully as possible and assisted through the dying process with dignity.  This is attained through expert management of symptoms while supporting patient and families’ emotional, spiritual, psychological, and logistical care needs.

Generally, to qualify for hospice care, patients have an anticipated life expectancy of less than six months and have decided to focus on comfort and quality of life. The types of medical conditions that end-stage disease patients could potentially have include end-stage cancer, advanced dementia, heart failure, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.  Most hospice care is provided at home, but it is also available in long-term care settings and specialized units for intense symptom management.

Hospice care is an excellent option for patients with end-stage disease and should not be confused with Palliative care which shares a holistic approach to patient care.  Palliative care seeks to treat symptoms and stress of serious illness, not just terminal illness.  It can be provided in conjunction with curative and intensive medical therapies.  Through patient centered communication and care, Palliative care teams help patients and families understand their illness comprehensively with access to physical, emotional and spiritual support earlier in the disease, often improving outcomes for patients

If you or your loved one is interested in learning more about palliative medicine and hospice care, click here to visit our website or call MD Anderson Cancer Center at Cooper at 1.855.MDA.COOPER and ask to speak with a member of our social work team.


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