What is Hospice?

The word "hospice" stems from the Latin word "hospitium" meaning guesthouse. It was originally used to describe a place of shelter for weary and sick travelers returning from religious pilgrimages. During the 1960's a British physician named Dr. Cicely Saunders began the modern hospice movement by establishing St. Christopher's Hospice near London. St. Christopher's organized a team approach to professional caregiving and was the first program to use modern pain management techniques to compassionately care for the dying. The first hospice in the United States was established in New Haven, Connecticut in 1974.  Hospice is no longer a place, but a program of care that is delivered to patients and their families wherever they live.  Now there are thousands of hospice programs in the US serving millions of people each year.

  • Hospice is a special concept of care designed to provide comfort and support to patients and their families when a life-limiting illness no longer responds to cure-oriented treatments.
  • Hospice care neither prolongs life nor hastens death.
  • Hospice staff and volunteers offer a specialized knowledge of medical care, including pain management.
  • The goal of hospice care is to improve the quality of a patient's last days by offering comfort and dignity.
  • Hospice care is provided by a team-oriented group of specially trained professionals, volunteers and family members.
  • Hospice addresses all symptoms of a disease, with a special emphasis on controlling a patient's pain and discomfort.
  • Hospice deals with the emotional, social and spiritual impact of the disease on the patient and the patient's family and friends.
  • Hospice offers a variety of bereavement and counseling services to families before and after a patient's death.

The vast majority of hospice care is provided in the patient’s home, a family member's home, or in a nursing home.