Hospice, in the earliest days, was a concept rooted in the centuries-old idea of offering a place of shelter and rest, or 'hospitality' to weary and sick travelers on a long journey. In 1967 Dame Cicely Saunders at St. Christopher’s Hospice in London first applied the term 'hospice' to specialized care for dying patients. Today, hospice care provides humane and compassionate care for people in the last phases of incurable disease so that they may live as fully and comfortably as possible.
Hospice is a philosophy of care. The hospice philosophy, or viewpoint, accepts death as the final stage of life. Our goal is to enable patients to continue an alert, pain-free life and to manage other symptoms so that their last days may be spent with dignity and quality, surrounded by their loved ones. Hospice affirms life and does not hasten or postpone death. Our care treats the person rather than the disease; it focuses on quality rather than length of life. It proves family-centered care and involves the patient and the family in making decisions. Care is provided for the patient and family 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Hospice care can be given in the patient’s home, a skilled nursing facility or a residential care facility.
Hospice care is appropriate when someone no longer benefits from curative treatment. Hospice provides palliative care, which is treatment to help relieve any uncomfortable symptoms, but will not cure the disease; its main purpose is to improve the quality of life. The patient, family and doctor decide together when hospice care should begin.
In many cases Hospice care is not started soon enough. Sometimes the doctor, patient, or family member will resist hospice because they feel it sends a message of no hope. This is not true. There are times when the disease goes into remission or stabilizes and the patient is discharged from our service and if needed, can come back to hospice care at a later time. Hospice brings the hope of a life lived with quality, making the best of each day, and doing things that bring joy and satisfaction to both patient and family.