Hospice and Palliative Care: The Melding of End of Life Care

In 2000, the National Hospice Organization, the largest nonprofit organization in the U.S. representing Hospice Care, changed its name to the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization (NHPCO). Palliative care is focused on making the patient comfortable by treating both physical symptoms like pain and mental manifestations like stress or depression.

How Does Palliative Care Address The Entire Experience

Hospice patients are encouraged to stay as active as they can for as long as possible and to continue to participate in their favorite activities and pastimes. Emphasis is always on qualify of life and the belief that no one should die alone, afraid, or in pain. In this regard, palliative care can include a broad range of such nontraditional regimens/programs as:

  • Massage therapy, which is known to ease pain, increase circulation and induce relaxation.
  • Aroma therapy, which uses varied aromas to relax or rejuvenate the recipient.
  • PAWS, a program in which volunteers bring pets into the hospice facility. Pets have been proven to bring comfort and joy to those who are ill.
  • Go Wish and similar programs that help make dreams come true by making it possible for the patient to re-visit a special place, re-connect with a faraway loved one; or carry out a lifelong ambition like swimming with dolphins.

A Global Hospice and Palliative Care Support Network

Current trends suggest that an increasing number of individuals of all races and ethnic backgrounds consider hospice an attractive alternative to end-of-life care in a clinical setting. The NHPCO not only works to increase access to hospice care and serves as an advocate on behalf of the terminally ill, but also educates the public about the benefits of palliative care. Call their toll-free number (1-800-658-8898) for information about hospices in your area. The non-profit International Association for Hospice and Palliative Care does the same work on a global scale.

An October 8, 2012 NY Times Op-Ed piece by Bill Keller describes the Liverpool Care Pathway for the Dying Patient, a hospice approach that has become the standard in most British hospitals. Keller suggests that political opposition, often based on an unrealistic fear of government intrusion or “death panels,” has kept hospice care from becoming the norm in the U.S. He concludes by asking, “Do you want to die with an oxygen mask on your face or would you rather kiss your wife?”

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