What is hospice care?

Hospice care is a type of comfort care available to a person in the final stage of a very serious illness, usually with 6 months or less to live (a terminal illness). Hospice care focuses on giving the person comfort and quality of life after doctors can’t do any more to treat their illness.

If you (or a loved one) have a serious illness and treatment isn’t helping you get better, your doctors will talk to you and your loved ones about stopping treatment and starting hospice care.

People of all ages, including children, can use hospice care. It’s a comfort care option that:

  • Gives you medical, emotional, and spiritual support to die comfortably. You’ll mostly get medicine to lower your pain, not strong medicines to try to cure your illness.
  • Gives support to your loved ones
  • Can be in many settings, including at home, a nursing home, an assisted living facility, or a hospital
  • Is a team effort where you, your loved ones, nurses, and doctors work together. Social workers and chaplains may also join in if you wish.

Sometimes, a person’s illness may improve while they get hospice care. If this happens, the person can choose to leave hospice care.

The other main type of comfort care is palliative care, which is comfort care for anyone with a long-term illness, not just a terminal illness. Someone can start palliative care at the same time as treatment – they don’t have to wait until the final stage of life.