What is Hospice?

Jul 30, 2021

Adapted from articles published by the NHPCO 

Hospice is a Medicare benefit that offers services to patients who have a life limiting illness with a life expectancy of 6 months or less determined by your doctor. The focus of hospice care is on the quality of remaining life rather than only extending life. Therefore, hospice works to provide effective pain management and symptom control. Hospice offers a coordinated program of care from the time of admission through bereavement. Hospice trains family and other caregivers to meet their loved one’s needs. Everyone included in the unit of care receives the support of the hospice care team.


Hospice uses a highly qualified, specially-trained team of professionals and volunteers working together to meet the physiological, emotional, social and spiritual needs of persons facing the end of life and bereavement.

The team consists of your provider and medical director, registered nurse, social worker, chaplain, aide and a volunteer. Here is a brief description of each team members role in your care.

  • Physician/Medical Provider – Your physician and the medical director provide medical direction to the Hospice care team in the development, provision, and revision of your plan of care. They both remain a part of your care.
  • Registered Nurse (RN) – The RN assess your medical needs including medication and equipment, coordinates with your physician, provides education to you and your caregivers and helps provide a sense of normalcy to this experience.
  • Social Worker – The Social Worker will provide you and your caregivers education and make referrals to resources to meet needs such as caregiving, homemaking, respite, food and shelter, legal assistance, and funeral arrangements.
  • Chaplain – The Chaplain is available to companion you and your family during this challenging time by supporting you emotionally and spiritually. You may ask the chaplain to help with life changes, decision making, relationships, life values and matters of faith, troubling feelings or whatever is most important to you.
  • Care Aide – The Care Aide is responsible for helping you with personal care and visits depending on your needs. They may provide personal care and assist with activities of daily living. They may help with shampooing, shaving and other general grooming as well as changing bed linens to make you feel clean and refreshed. The Care Aide can also train other family members who care for you.
  • Volunteer – A volunteer provides emotional and spiritual support to you and your family depending on your needs. Volunteers go through extensive training to understand the needs and experiences of the terminally ill and their families.

To learn more about your hospice care team and their responsibilities in your care as well as get answers to frequently asked questions read the article A Team Approach to Care.


Hospice services are covered under the Medicare/Medicaid Hospice benefit. Most insurance plans, HMOs and managed care plans also include hospice coverage. In order for hospice services to be covered, your hospice provider must be Medicare approved.

Hospice offers services and support to all people and their families regardless of age, gender, nationality, creed, sexual orientation, disability, diagnosis, availability of a primary caregiver or ability to pay.


Hospice, by definition, is a team-oriented approach to providing specialized care when you are a life-limiting illness or injury. It includes expert medical care, pain management and emotional support for you and your family. But more simply, hospice care supports living one’s life to the fullest with dignity regardless of how much time remains.

Hospice personnel are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week for phone consultations or home visits. Hospice services will usually be able to follow you if your care setting changes. You and your family are unique, and the way in which you deal with this stage of life will also be unique. Hospice care teams understand and support your individuality. They are committed to helping you identify your specific needs and find ways to meet those needs.

We are born with the will to live. This strong drive helps you and your loved ones make each day the best it can be—filled with qualities of love, care, concern, and support. The hospice care team will do all they can to help you find peace of mind in your own way and in your own time frame.

Hospice care may include:

  • Participation of your own physician
  • A plan of care is centered on the patient and family’s wishes
  • guidance and support for caregivers and family
  • A nurse available 24/7 Home visits by a registered nurse and other team members
  • Coordination of medical supplies, equipment and medication
  • Trained volunteers providing companionship for patients and breaks for caregivers
  • Certified nursing assistants providing comfort care and assistance with the activities of daily living
  • Spiritual support
  • Guidance and emotional support to help with uncertainty and sadness


Hospice can start after your physician states that you have a life-limiting illness, and that death is expected within 6 months. Hospice care can then start within a day or two of a referral to Hospice. Referrals can be made by your doctor or you can call and request hospice services for yourself or a family member.

Hospice services continue for the duration of the illness. If it is longer than 6 months your care team will certify that your illness continues to be life limiting. After your death hospice provides thirteen months of bereavement support for your loved ones.

Hospice works best when you begin receiving care and support as early as possible. An early referral, months in advance of the last few days, enables you to fully benefit from hospice services that can bring guidance, comfort, peace and quality of life.


In-Home Hospice is hospice care that is provided wherever you call home, which may be your own home, a skilled nursing facility, adult family home or assisted living facility. Care Team members visit your home to provide services and required medical equipment or any other services that you need are brought to you.

The Hospice House is a General In-Patient (GIP) care facility where you are cared for by specially trained staff in symptom management. This is a great choice for you if your family may be unable to care for you, if your caregiver(s) is in need of respite care or if your symptoms are not able to be controlled at home. Family members are welcome to stay with you 24 hours a day.


Respite care is short-term relief from caregiving responsibilities for in-home caregivers. It is provided to caregivers in order for them get some much-deserved rest, go on a trip or vacation, to handle personal matters or attend a special event. Hospice care services cover up to 5-days at a time where you can be cared for in a hospice house in-patient setting.


The death of a significant person can be a time of great pain. Grief may affect your family members physically and emotionally. They may experience shock and numbness; sadness, anger, fatigue and exhaustion; restlessness and irritability. They may find themselves crying unexpectedly, searching for something or they may be forgetful, confused or distracted.

Hospice care includes bereavement services for up to a year after the death of a loved one. Services may include:

  • Support groups are available for adults who have had a spouse, partner or other significant person die and are seeking a safe place to share their grief experiences with others.
  • One-time classes are offered throughout the year to help grieving people understand their grief and how to deal with the stress, loneliness and confusion of the holiday season.
  • One-on-one support with a bereavement specialist provides a listening presence and a safe place for you to talk through your grief reactions and discuss coping strategies.
  • Grief support programs are available for children who have suffered the loss of a loved, one depending on your area. These peer groups help children walk through grief together while supporting each other in an age-appropriate manner so they know they are not grieving along.

Call Chaplaincy Health Care today at (509) 783-7416 to ask questions, get answers, learn more or to begin Hospice care services.


Return to Hospice Resource page