Find Community

What Is Hospice Care and How Do I Know if My Loved One Needs It?

Unsure if your parent or loved one needs hospice care? Learn more about what hospice care is and how to know when it is needed.

What Is Hospice Care?

Many people know that hospice is associated with the final stage of life, which is accurate, but it doesn’t fully answer the question “What is hospice care?” Hospice care is specialized end-of-life care. When a terminally ill patient forgoes curative treatment, an interdisciplinary team of hospice professionals steps in to provide medical, spiritual and psychological support in the shared goal of providing a comfortable and dignified transition from life to death. They work to treat the person in their charge and the symptoms of the disease, but not the disease itself. Hospice team members will likely include:

  • A doctor to prescribe the correct course of care
  • A nurse to oversee day-to-day care
  • Aides to provide some assistance with dressing, bathing, cleaning and cooking
  • Chaplin or spiritual adviser
  • Social worker or counselor to help both the patient and their loved ones

Depending on the individual’s condition, a physical or speech therapist may become an important part of the care team as well. Their role is to ensure safety and independence, as well as quality of life while the patient is in hospice care.

How to Know When Hospice Care Is Needed

Hospice care is about living as well as possible up to the last moment. With that goal in mind, many still wonder how to know when hospice care is needed. To be eligible for hospice care, a patient must have a life-limiting illness, and a doctor must determine that the patient’s life expectancy is no more than six months.

End-of-life treatment can be a difficult subject to broach, even for doctors, because many people feel like they should always keep fighting an illness. But if a treatment plan is no longer working, it may be time to speak to the medical team about hospice and enjoy quality of life in the remaining time.

Where to Receive Hospice Care

Hospice patients can receive care in their residence — whether that’s a house or a senior living community. Some patients choose to receive treatment in a dedicated hospice residential facility. And if the patient is experiencing symptoms that need extensive management, they may move to a hospital.

Palliative Care vs. Hospice Care

These terms are often confused because both types of treatment promote quality of life for people facing serious illnesses. But palliative care doesn’t require the patient to forgo curative efforts. They can still fight their illness while receiving holistic social, emotional and practical support.

Additionally, hospice services are covered by Medicaid, Medicare and most private health insurance plans, but palliative care isn’t guaranteed. Some care plans may cover all or part of palliative care, but a patient would need to check with their provider.

Hospice in Senior Living Communities

When an older adult resides in senior living, hospice specialists are available on-site to ensure the patient receives the best possible care without having to move to an unfamiliar environment during an already emotional time. As a resident of skilled nursing, the patient and their family may already have a relationship with their team members, which can be an added comfort.

Hospice can be a difficult topic to consider, and many don’t want to talk about it before they need it. That’s why it’s beneficial to find a senior living community that provides hospice care on-site. You can enjoy the lifestyle and services now and have the peace of mind of knowing you have hospice services there for you in the future. To find a community that offers quality hospice care, use our community locator tool.

Where You Live Matters is powered by the American Seniors Housing Association (ASHA), a respected voice in the senior housing industry. ASHA primarily focuses on legislative and regulatory advocacy, research, and educational opportunities and networking for senior living executives, so they can better understand the needs of older adults across the country.

National Institute on Aging
International Association for Hospice & Palliative Care
American Cancer Society
Indian Journal of Palliative Care