A Patient’s Final Breath: An Introduction to Hospice Care

Caregivers and medical professionals providing hospice care no longer actively treat incurable diseases. Instead, they provide relief for persistent symptoms of the disease, such as pain or nausea. The hospice philosophy is intended to help patients live out the final stage of life as comfortably as possible. It is a family-centered endeavor that actively includes the patient and surviving family in making all decisions.

When Does Hospice Care Begin?

Hospice care begins when a disease can no longer be controlled or cured. If the illness has run its course, patients expected to live about six months or less are taken into the hospice facility. The patient, family members, and primary physician should decide together when hospice care should begin.

Sometimes families and patients resist hospice care because they take it as a sign of lost hope. But the truth is that hospice can actually improve quality of life through 24/7 care and symptom management instead of spending months confined in a hospital room.

Patients can leave hospice and go back into active treatment or back home whenever they want. However, it’s also important to consider hospice care before the patient’s condition becomes an urgent issue. Transitioning into hospice takes a lot of preparation through practical and emotional means.

Some doctors hesitate to bring up hospice care to the family. Nevertheless, if the illness is so advanced that the patient is no longer responding to treatment, the family can approach the medical team about hospice. There is no perfect time frame for hospice—it’s an incredibly personal decision that should be discussed thoroughly by the patient and their family.

What Does Hospice Care Provide?

Hospice care is a holistic endeavor provided by a team of professionals. Hospice teams usually consist of doctors, nurses, counselors, social workers, and even clergy that allow the patient to stay comfortable with the best possible quality of life. Services include:

  • Palliative care – The hospice team provides medication, treatment, or other therapies to help relieve persistent symptoms, pain, and stress. The patient, their family, and their team of caregivers take part in planning appropriate care to make sure all the patient’s needs are met.
  • Spiritual care – Religious clergy provide emotional and spiritual support to the patient and family alike. This may include grief counselors for family members.
  • Respite care – If hospice care takes place at home, hospice services offer respite care so that family members can take some time away from their daily caregiving responsibilities. The patient is cared for in the hospice facility while the family caregivers get much-needed rest.

Finding A Hospice Care Program

Hospice care is not limited to facilities—in-home hospice care is very common, with nursing and other professionals occasionally visiting for treatments at home. If the patient and their family prefer a hospice care program, they need to choose a certified and licensed program reviewed by the state.


Hospice care ensures that patients are as comfortable as possible during the last months of their life. The choice to put a patient in hospice is complicated and personal, so it should be discussed very seriously within the family and the patient’s willingness in mind. Remember that the choice of hospice care program should center the patient’s needs and comfort.

The caregiving team in Morristown HC’s hospice facilities in Morristown, NJ, provides round-the-clock skilled nursing care that addresses each patient’s individual needs and overall well-being. Our experienced long-term care nursing staff is dedicated to providing the highest quality care with compassion and dignity. Contact us about our services today.