What Is Hospice Care?

Hospice care means end-of-life care. This type of care is reserved for people with terminal illnesses that have exhausted all treatment options. Unlike other medical care, the focus here is not to cure disease–– it’s to provide the highest quality of life possible for the time a patient has left. Hospice care facilities are staffed by a team of health care professionals who seek to make a patient’s remaining life as comfortable as possible.

Services provided at hospice facilities are meant to reduce or control pain by addressing physical, mental, psychological, spiritual, and social needs to the patients, as well as additional services to the families of patients like counseling and respite care.

Who Is Likely to Benefit from Hospice Care?

Hospice care was created for the terminally ill who have a life expectancy of six months or less to live. However, this care can be provided for as long as a patient’s doctor and hospice care staff validate that a condition continues to limit a person’s life.

Many people in hospice care have cancer. Many others have diseases such as dementia, heart disease, pulmonary issues, or kidney failure.

Deciding to enter hospice care sooner rather than later can help a terminally ill person live a better, longer life. Because hospice care takes some of the burden of care from a family, it also helps the family better prepare for their family member’s death.

Additionally, hospice care offers temporary relief to families by providing respite care. This service is not so much for the patient, but so the family caregivers can get a break from the burden of care.

Where Does Hospice Care Happen?

The majority of hospice care is provided in-home while a family member serves as the primary caregiver. But there are also dedicated facilities for hospice care and it can also be provided in nursing homes, hospitals, and assisted living facilities.

It’s important to note, however, that hospice care teams are limited in the management of certain symptoms. Sometimes despite excellent hospice care, it’s necessary for a patient to be admitted to the hospital so they can receive the best care for their symptoms.

Who Is On a Hospice Care Team?

When a person is receiving hospice care outside of a dedicated facility, a hospice staff makes regular visits to them and they’re on call 24/7.

Here is who typically makes up a hospice care team and the roles they play:

  • Doctors
    Each hospice patient gets to chose their primary doctor. That primary care doctor will coordinate with a hospice doctor to provide the best care.
  • Nurses
    Nurses are responsible for executing the care as directed by the doctors and facilitating the rest of the team in providing the care.
  • Home Health Aides
    These aides help with ADLs–– Activities of Daily Living––including eating, bathing, dressing, hygiene, and movement.
  • Social Workers
    Social workers provide counseling and support through their professional training as well as their referral network of other support systems.
  • Volunteers
    Volunteers with training provide a variety of services to provide care such as respite care, transportation, or simply companionship.
  • Spiritual Counselors
    During this tough time, spiritual counselors who have significant training can provide support and guidance to both the patient and their family. This role typically falls to people such as chaplains, priests, ministers, rabbis, imams, and gurus.
  • Bereavement Counselors
    These are counselors available to provide support and guidance after a loved one passes away in hospice.
  • Other Therapy Professionals
    Sometimes additional therapy–– physical, speech, or occupational ––can provide important support in the final months of life.

Who Pays for Hospice Care?

Hospice care is financed by government-funded programs including Medicare, Medicaid, and the VA, and private insurance also usually covers hospice care.

Each hospice program has its own stipulations about payment, but unlike most healthcare programs in the US, these services are often offered based on need rather than an ability to pay for the care.

Make sure to do your research before picking a hospice program that suits you or a loved one.

What to Consider When Choosing a Hospice Care Program

Consult any or all of the listed professionals that are part of a hospice care team about the best hospice options for you. You can also do additional due research by checking out Hope Hospice St. Louis for more information.

To help you consider all the factors in finding the best hospice care program for you, here is a list of questions you need to have answered about each program:

  1. What services are offered to the terminally ill?
  2. How does this program manage pain and other symptoms?
  3. Is residential hospice available?
  4. What kind of services are provided after hours?
  5. If the situation changes, can the hospice team adapt to provide care in different settings?
  6. Are there volunteers on the team?
  7. What services are offered to the family?
  8. Are there respite services?
  9. Are there bereavement services?
  10. Is the hospice program for-profit or non-profit?
  11. How is the hospice care team trained or screened?
  12. Is the medical director board certified in hospice and palliative care medicine?
  13. Is the program Medicare-certified?
  14. Is the program reviewed and licensed by the state? If not, how is it certified?
  15. Is it accredited by The Joint Commission?
  16. Are the costs of the program covered by insurance or other sources like Medicare?
  17. How long does it take to be accepted into this program?


Hospice care is about providing the best quality of life to someone who is terminally ill. When choosing a hospice care program, remember to consider the questions above.

For more information about hospice care and whether it’s right for you or your loved one, contact Home Hospice St. Louis.