Hospice has been around for a very long time with some historians believing that the first hospice patients were served over one thousand years ago. Even though this practice has been around for so long, there are far too few people who have a firm understanding of what the purpose of hospice is. This is the question we hope to answer today. But to do that, we will need to start with a basic definition of the term ‘hospice’.
Hospice care is a form of palliative care that focuses on the terminally ill. This means that to qualify for hospice, you must have a medical prognosis of less than six months left to live. This phrase can be very scary for one to confront and likely raises more questions such as “Does this mean that hospice hastens death?”, or “Does it mean that if someone is inaccurately placed on hospice services, will shorten their life?”.
The answer is no. Absolutely not.
These myths about hospice circle around society, detrimentally affecting people’s view of end-of-life care and ability to receive the help they need before passing away. Hospice does not hasten death. The goal of hospice is to improve the quality of life and thus enrich how ever much time the patient has left.
Does Hospice Lengthen Life?
Although hospice is not meant to lengthen life, studies done by numerous research centers have shown that hospice often tends to do so. For example, Kate Rowland, MD of the University of Chicago’s department of family medicine, preformed a study of hospice care and found “patients with lung cancer . . . live longer when they receive palliative care services soon after diagnosis.” (Rowland, Palliative care: Earlier is better, 2010) For some, this may seem counter intuitive. So how is this possible?
Often, potential hospice patients have been dealing with large amounts of physical and emotional pain all on their own. Then, when these patients are put on hospice care, they are given a plethora of services designed to mitigate their pain. This added physical, emotional, and spiritual support is intended to improve the quality of a hospice patient’s life, provide enrichment, and give comfort so that they can live the rest of their days peacefully.