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The Vital Role Of Family In Hospice Care

Hospice is a specialized care program that is typically offered to people who have six or less months to live due to a terminal illness. There are some hospice programs that offer long term care if needed and can be offered in the home, nursing home, assisted living facility, hospital, or hospice house.

Fast Hospice Care Facts and Figures


  • 43 million beneficiaries were enrolled in hospice care for at least one day.
  • The average length of hospice care for Medicare beneficiaries was 71 days.
  • The median length being 24 days for Medicare beneficiaries.
  • 98% of hospice care was provided at the Routine Home Care level.
  • There are currently 4,382 Medicare-certified hospices in operation with most hospices averaging less than 50 patients.
  • Hospice care is not a permanent decision, there have been patients to move off hospice due health improvements.


Hospice care teams include, but are not limited to, doctors, nurses, social workers, and pharmacies, all with the focus of managing a patient’s illness and giving them the necessary emotional, spiritual, and physical support. Hospice also offers benefits such as:

1. Specialized Care – a hospice environment can meet the needs of individuals that require more in depth care, offering comfort and support during the final days.

2. Insurance – hospice care is covered by Medicare, which is the most common health insurance in the United States allowing it to be easily accessible to most people.

3. Personal Assistance – hospice can take care of daily tasks such as laundry, food prep, personal hygiene, and bedside care.

4. Bereavement Support – after death, most hospice centers provide bereavement support and grief counseling to families which include visits from trained grief counselors, grief support groups or remembrance services (level of support varies by hospice).

5. Team Approach – hospice knows that caring for an ill patient is exhausting on all levels which is why the hospice care team is available to patient and family to help provide comfort, support, and rest for tired family members.

The Family Approach

Now while turning to hospice can be an extremely difficult decision for family members, family remains the primary support for a hospice patient. Family members and loved ones being active in the patient’s life even during hospice care is incredibly important for emotional and spiritual support. While hospice takes care of pain and symptom management, has access to community resources, provides the necessary medical equipment and being able to connect with patients on a surface level – family members are there to provide reassurance, love and be an advocate for their loved one.

Being admitted to hospice is not just nerve wrecking for the family but for the patient as well, giving up a lifetime of freedom, being completely dependent on others and accepting the inevitable is not always easy on people, especially with independent individuals. Family members can support loved ones in hospice by:

Advocating For Their Loved One

By working closely with the hospice care time to create a personalized hospice plan, families can accurately reflect their loved one’s preferences. They can also make sure the hospice care team knows their last wishes including how they would like to be cared for, the level of intervention, their end-of-life options, and other related concerns.

Providing Emotional Support

Providing emotional support to a loved one is one of the most important things friends and family can do. Be sure to speak calmly and offer reassurance while reminding your loved one how you value them, the impact that they had during their life, revisit treasured memories, and talk about their interests or hobbies. If you are not sure what to say to your loved one, simply lend them a listening ear or a shoulder to cry on. Providing physical acts, such as holding hands, is also incredibly soothing for patients during an emotional time.

Creating A Comforting Environment

If you can have any control over the environment, create a calming one. Avoid loud music and bright lights and opt for soft versions of both. It has been proven that this helps improve mood and alleviate stress for patients. Calming, familiar music is also proven to help evoke specific memories. Be sure to also keep the temperature comfortable, the bed dry and limit any distracting noises or chaos.

Arranging Visits (Virtual or In-Person)

Seeing a loved one ill is hard, but avoiding them does not help anyone, patients more than ever want to feel connected to their family and friends. Be sure to have regular in-person visits, have scheduled phone calls or do virtual visits via Skype or Zoom. Be sure to remind the patient that they are loved and that you will be in contact with them again.

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Choosing Hospice

Though choosing hospice is never an easy choice for family members, it is important for them to not feel defeated over the decision. Hospice truly is a family affair that includes patients and loved ones into care. With family members and the hospice care team coordinating together, it can ensure that patients feel comfortable, valued, respected, loved and heard during this emotionally exhausting time.


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