Beyond Standard Hospice Care

CDC report offers new data on alternative therapies offered by hospice care providers

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) New data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that many hospice care providers offer some sort of complementary or alternative therapy, such as massage or music therapy.

Terminally ill patients enter into hospice care typically when the negative side effects of continuing curative care outweigh the benefits. End-of-life services offered by hospices are intended to alleviate the pain and symptoms associated with terminal illness. However, not all patients in hospice care die there. If a patient's condition improves, he or she may be discharged in order to continue with regular medical treatment or to go on about daily life. Some patients go in and out of hospice care throughout the course of a disease.

Complementary and alternative therapies (CATs) do not fall under standard guidelines for hospice care, but they still provide patients with another helpful method of pain management.

Led by Anita Bercovitz, Ph.D., a team of CDC researchers set out to find what kind of complementary and alternative therapies hospices are offering and the prevalence of each of these therapies. The data show that almost 41.8 percent of hospice care providers offered complementary and alternative therapies services in 2007. Of those hospices that offered CAT services, nearly 72 percent offered massage therapy. Around 60 percent offered music or pet therapy, while nearly 70 percent provided supportive group therapy.

The researchers also found that approximately 57 percent of patients who were well enough to be discharged from hospice care were at a center that provided complementary and alternative therapies services. Of those patients, over eight percent reported receiving at least one alternative therapy.

According to the authors, there was no difference in demographics, health, functional status, or admission diagnoses between discharged patients who chose to receive complementary and alternative therapies and those who did not choose complementary and alternative therapies even though they had the option.

The CDC report appears in the January 19 issue of the National Health Statistics Reports.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
January 28, 2011
Last Updated:
January 29, 2011