Raising Awareness of End-of-Life Options

National Hospice and Palliative Care Month addresses care plans for terminal patients

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Robert Carlson, M.D Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) The month of November is National Hospice and Palliative Care Month, a time dedicated to awareness of end-of-life care.

Although most healthcare services are intended to treat or cure, hospice and palliative care focuses on helping patients who are facing the end of their lives.

The National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization (NHPCO) is the main group that promotes the month. NHPCO is a nonprofit that represents palliative care providers and develops educational and informational materials for end-of-life caregivers.

Palliative and hospice care encompasses both physiological and emotional support, usually with a team-based approach.

"Talk to your family and doctor about end-of-life options."

People who have terminal illnesses or are approaching the end of life sometimes choose hospice care, which is typically provided in the patient's home.

Hospice care teams include healthcare workers like doctors, nurses and therapists, but also frequently include grief counselors and social workers. The team mainly works with the patient, but also provides support to the family.

The hospice care team manages the patient's pain level and other symptoms, helps the patient cope with dying, advises the family on how to care for the patient and provides counseling to the family before and after the death of the patient.

Typically, the hospice care team has a primary point of contact, usually a family member, who provides the majority of the care to the patient when the team is not there.

According to the NHCPO, as many as 1.6 million patients receive hospice care each year. In 2012, the average length of hospice care treatment was 18.7 days, although many patients received care for much longer or much shorter time periods.

A total of 36.9 percent of hospice care patients have a terminal cancer diagnosis, while many more patients have advanced dementia, heart disease or other diagnoses.

Although discussing death can be an uncomfortable and emotional topic, the NHCPO emphasizes the usefulness of planning end-of-life care sooner rather than later to reduce stress.

Additionally, planning ahead gives the patient and their family the ability to review hospice and palliative care programs and organizations to find one that suits their desires.

More information and resources about hospice, palliative care and planning for a patient's end of life can be found in the links below.

Review Date: 
November 18, 2013
Last Updated:
November 19, 2013