Hospice Care

The family physician, by virtue of unique training and experience, is in a position to provide a leadership role in hospice care.

The concept of hospice is one of comprehensive care for the dying. The physical facilities may be very extensive or quite minimal. The AAFP, therefore, chooses to define hospice in terms of what it does rather than the institution location in which it is performed. Hospice is preferred in the home setting whenever possible.

A hospice is a program designed to care for the dying and their special needs. Among these services all hospice programs should include:

(a) Control of pain and other symptoms through medication, environmental adjustment and education.

(b) Psychosocial support for both the patient and family, including all phases from diagnosis through the bereavement process.

(c) Medical services commensurate with the needs of the patient.

(d) Physician-led interdisciplinary "team" (i.e., clergy, social workers, nurses, counselors, therapists, and other volunteers) approaches to patient care, patient and family support, and education with physician leadership is desirable.

(e) Integration into existing facilities where possible.

(f) Specially trained personnel with expertise in care of the dying and their families. 

(g) Education regarding the use of hospice early in the diagnosis of the terminal illness to assist the patient and family through the dying process sooner rather than later.

(h) Understanding hospice does not involve hastening or prolonging the dying process.

(1979) (2013 COD)