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When is it Time for Hospice Care?

Hospice is a set of services for terminally ill patients and their families. Hospice should not be considered as a last resort or giving up. It focuses on pain and symptom management with compassionate care to help the patient live as fully as ever. Hospice supports the emotional, social and spiritual needs of the patient as well as the whole family. Families continue to receive bereavement support for over a year after the patient's death.


Who may be appropriate for hospice?


Patients may be appropriate for hospice if they have an illness where the life expectancy is approximately six months or less if the disease progresses its natural course.  The patient may have cancer or another end-stage chronic disease, such as cardiovascular, pulmonary, liver, renal, neuromuscular or Alzheimer's.  Patients are appropriate candidates for hospice when:


  • Their illness no longer responds to aggressive, cure-oriented treatment.


  • There is a need for continuing pain and symptom relief.


  • The patient and family may require continuing emotional and spiritual support.



Hospice Care Admission Criteria


To be eligible, patients must be diagnosed with a terminal illness and be aware that they have a life expectancy of six months or less if the disease runs its natural course.


In addition to cancer patients, any patient with an end-stage disease may be appropriate for hospice care.  Consult Hospice Referral Indicators for Non-Cancer Diagnoses.


When is it Appropriate to Refer

a Patient to Hospice?


Patients who qualify for hospice are often referred too late, if at all.  Referrals made when the patient has months rather than weeks or days left provide the most benefit.


Providing information about hospice early:

  • Allows the patient to make an informed decision and helps to shape the final phase of life based on personal wishes, goals and beliefs.
  • Gives the patient a choice and sense of control before the illness is in medical crisis.
  • Allows caregivers to address symptom management to before the illness reaches crisis proportions.
  • Allows time to address the emotional, social and spiritual needs of the patient and the family, giving them time to come to terms with dying.


Initiating discussions early in the progression of the disease will give patients time to determine the services that they want at the end of life.  Patients with a prognosis of less than one year should be educated about the hospice option, even if there is a "hope for the best" approach, so they know their options and can be prepared. 




For more information, to make a referral or 

for a consultation to see if

a patient is appropriate for hospice,

call 800-249-8298