Patients who receive hospice service are mostly terminally ill and have less than six months to live. When a patient is put on hospice service, aggressive treatment is no longer attempted. The purpose of hospice service is to keep patients comfortable.
When people know they have less than six months to live and decide to receive hospice service, most people will leave hospitals and spend their final days at home. According a 2007 report from the National Hospice and Palliative Organization, 70 percent of hospice patients receive service at their own residence.
"We keep people out of the hospital; when they die, they don't want to be at a hospital," said Dale Willis, volunteer director of Hospice Compassus in Columbia.
According to the report, in 2007, almost 40 percent of people who in the United States received hospice service.
Keeping patients comfortable is one of hospice's main purposes. Hospice service providers try to manage pains and symptoms.
"Most of our patients don't have needles or tubes because they are uncomfortable," Willis said.
Hospice teams have many members with different responsibilities. Physicians and nurses manage patients' care, mainly working on alleviating pains and dealing with symptoms. Social workers help families and patient find resources. They make phone calls to insurance companies and find nursing homes for patients. Counselors help patients and families develop coping skills and manage crisis situations. Chaplains meet spiritual needs at request of families and patients. Bereavement counselors coordinate grief support after a patient's death and help families cope through the process.
Volunteers for hospice service pay visits to patients, and their families if needed, to give them emotional support.
"Our volunteers give compassion to patients and families," Willis said.