Extended-Care, Long-Term Care, Nursing Homes - Hospices

The first hospice program in the United States, The Connecticut Hospice, Inc., opened in Bradford, Connecticut in 1974. Today, there are nearly 1,900 Medicare-certified hospices throughout the country. Described sometimes as more a philosophy than a type of physical facility, hospice is a form of care for the terminally ill. While a normal medical setting concerns itself with healing a patient, the hospice health care environment concentrates on palliative treatment, in effect, treating and addressing pain and other symptoms of an incurable disease. Hospice programs emphasize quality, not length of life. Hospice treats dying as a normal process, and strives to help patients live comfortably and productively in their last days or months. Patients enter hospice programs at their own requests. A physician's referral, indicating that the prognosis is no more than six months, may also be required. Hospice helps people with a wide variety of terminal illnesses, such as cancer, Alzheimer's, AIDS, or Parkinson's, and in a broad range of conditions of health, from those bedridden to those who can still largely take care of themselves.

There are a variety of hospice settings. A hospice may be in a wing of a hospital or simply a group of hospital beds that can be made available as needed. A hospice may be in a separate building or institution. Many hospice programs are available to people in their homes. Families provide much of the care, though they are assisted by a team of hospice workers—from physicians, nurses, nurse's aides, home health aides, physical, occupational therapists, and speech therapists, to social workers, chaplains, and music therapists—who make regular visits and are on-call at all times to provide support. The team provides continuity between home and hospice when patients must be institutionalized. At all times, the individual patient's comfort is a prime consideration.

If you need help locating a hospice program in your area, contact the Hospice Education Institute 190 Westbrook Road, Essex, Connecticut 06426. If you need more general information on hospice, contact The Hospice Association of America 228 Seventh Street, SE, Washington, DC 20003-4306.

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