Throughout history, a hospice has been
a location dedicated to providing lodging and care to the ill and the
destitute, as well as to pilgrims and travelers. In general, hospices were
maintained by monastic orders that would ensure that these visitors were
adequately cared for. In 1967, Dr. Cicely Saunders adopted the term to describe
a facility in which terminally ill patients could receive palliative care and
comfort during their last weeks.
The first hospice, St. Christopher’s Hospice,
was established by Dr. Saunders in London. Since the creation of these palliative
care facilities, countries throughout the world have begun to offer hospice
care to dying individuals. Today, the place or central location in which the
care is administered is no longer the fundamental aspect of hospice care.
Instead, hospice refers to the nature of the care and palliative treatment
conducted by doctors, nurses, and volunteers.
Unlike aggressive treatment intended to cure fatal but reversible diseases, hospice
care seeks to comfort individuals with terminal diseases during their final weeks of life. Hospice
care providers acknowledge that dying is a natural and necessary part of life.
The most important aspect of this process is to minimize suffering and ensure
that a patient is as comfortable as possible. This form of palliative care does
not seek to quicken or postpone death. It simply assists in preparing
individuals and families for death with the hope of minimal suffering for the
The large majority of individuals that seek hospice care are suffering
from cancer. However, a hospice will provide care to an individual of any age
no matter what type of illness he/she is suffering from. This type of palliative
care is beneficial for individuals who wish to spend their final weeks in their
own home, or in a comfortable, homelike environment.
Though some hospices are
established and funded by specific religious denominations, they may offer care
to a large community and would not refuse care due to a patient’s religious
In most cases, discussing end-of-life care is difficult for both a patient and
his/her family. However, in instances of terminal illness, aggressive treatment
options generally prolong suffering and increase pain. Hospice care can provide
both patients and families with comfort and support through the process of
death. A patient may wish to speak with friends, doctors and clergymen about palliative
care. Most health insurance providers cover hospice care, including private insurance companies, Medicare, and Medicaid in the majority of states.
A hospice will
help an individual to determine whether or not he/she is eligible for
palliative care coverage. In the event that an individual’s insurance does not
cover hospice care, and he/she can not afford this care, a hospice may provide
care to him/her utilizing supplemental foundation funds.