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Hospice Care Overview
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Hospice Care

Philosophy and History

The hospice philosophy recognizes that every person deserves to live out his or her life with respect and dignity, alert and free of pain, in an environment that promotes quality of life. This concept of care came to the United States in the early 1970s, at a time when the vast majority of terminally ill people died in the hospital, often alone and in pain. From its beginnings, hospice has focused on the whole person - body, mind and spirit - with an understanding that serious illness profoundly impacts not only the patient, but family and loved ones as well.

Over the years, the medical community came to embrace hospice for bringing quality end-of-life services into the home, wherever home may be. Now, with the support of hospice professionals and volunteers, individuals may maintain control over their end-of-life choices. They do so knowing that hospice will support the patient and family in a multitude of ways.

Programs and Services

A team of hospice professionals and volunteers work cooperatively with the patient, family and the primary physician to provide this by services form of care. Hospice addresses the physical, emotional, social and spiritual needs of the patient, while attending to the equally important needs of the family and caregivers.

All hospices in Massachusetts provide these team services:

  • The patient's physician who becomes an integral part of the hospice team and continues to direct the plan of care.
  • The hospice's medical director who oversees the medical services provided to each patient in the hospice program and ensures the high quality of care.
  • Contacted nurses who specialize in pain management and symptom control, particularly for end-stage diseases.
  • Certified home health aides who provide personal care and help with the activities of daily living.
  • Licensed social workers who assist the patient and family with emotional concerns, including bereavement, as well as access to supportive community resources.
  • Pastoral counselors who serve people of all faiths, or of no religious faith, providing comfort and support whenever requested. They also will facilitate contacts with community clergy as needed.
  • Bereavement counselors who support the family and loved ones of all ages with support groups, one-on-one counseling and other byservices services during the bereavement process.

All Medicare-certified hospices in the state of Massachusetts provide these team services. In addition, some hospices offer specialized programs, e.g., palliative care, care for children, specific programs for patients with dementia. Many programs and support groups also are available to members of the community who are coping with loss and grief, whether or not their loved one was served by hospice.