What is hospice and palliative care?

Hospice care specifically refers to the care needed by an individual during the last months or weeks of life.

Palliative care, includes hospice, and refers to a compassionate, comprehensive team approach to care that focuses on quality of life for anyone coping with a serious illness, including the patient and family members.

The focus is on CARE, not CURE.

The belief of the hospice organization as a whole is that everyone has the right to die pain-free and with their dignity (Hospice Care, 2015)

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Hospice Team Members


  • physicians
  • nurses
  • nurses's aides
  • social workers
  • therapists (speech, physical, occupational)
  • bereavement counselors
  • spiritual/religious mentors


If you have Medicare Part A (Hospital Insurance) AND meet these conditions, you can get hospice care:

■ Your hospice doctor and your regular doctor (if you have one) certify that you’re terminally ill (with a life expectancy of 6 months or less).

■ You accept palliative care (for comfort) instead of care to cure your illness.

■ You sign a statement choosing hospice care instead of other Medicare-covered treatments for your terminal illness and related conditions.

  • Note: Only your hospice doctor and your regular doctor (if you have one) can certify that you’re terminally ill and have 6 months or less to live.


Facts and Figures

  • 1.6 million people used hospice services in 2014
  • Average length of service is 72 days
  • Majority of patients are cared for in their residence, 58.9% of patients passed away in their own homes (1,200,000 people)
  • 41% were 85 years of age or older
  • 53.7% of patients were female, 46.3% were male
  • 92% were of non-Hispanic or Latino ethnicity
  • 85% of patients were covered by the Medicare hospice benefit
  • There are over 6,100 operating hospice programs in the U.S.
  • Cancer diagnosis account for less than half of all hospice admissions (36%)
  • Non-cancer diagnosis= Dementia, heart disease, lung disease, stroke, AIDS, Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, and many others
  • (http://www.nhpco.org/sites/default/files/public/Statistics_Research/2015_Facts_Figures.pdf)
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Understanding Hospice Care