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Hospice and Home Care

Many people who are terminally ill choose to remain at home or enter a home-like alternative care setting such as a hospice. This decision may be closely connected with a desire to achieve death with dignity. This page gives general information on hospice and home care; we have another page that can help you find a hospice. We also have a page of resources for hospice volunteer training.

A key objective in hospice and home care is to obtain high-quality palliative care to control pain and preserve the highest possible quality of life for as long as life remains. Ensuring optimal care depends on the nature of the specific disease process that is leading toward death; you can research specific conditions using health care directories.

For elderly people, the decision to begin hospice or home care is often linked to more general issues regarding basic living arrangements, finances, and aging. Many eldercare resources exist to provide care for the total person.

Because it can take some time for hospice professionals to tailor palliative care and pain management to each person, it is best to begin some level of professional care before a crisis exists. Families often feel it is "too soon" to begin hospice care and wait until death is very near. Bringing hospice professionals in at the last minute limits their effectiveness. A better approach is to arrange introductory home meetings or hospice visits well in advance of need and obtain counseling from a hospice professional who can provide helpful suggestions on care arrangements. Put the support network in place before you need it.

The decision to begin hospice care may intensify feelings of grief and bereavement, both in the person who is dying and in others. Many support groups are available to help you through this end of life process, including groups for bereaved families.