There are a lot of questions surrounding hospice and end-of-life care options. What is hospice? When is it appropriate, and for whom?

The fundamental goal of hospice is to help patients with a terminal illness and their families experience the best quality of life when curative care is no longer an option. In hospice, the focus shifts to helping patients identify and articulate what they want most in their remaining time and providing symptom management, emotional support, and guidance to help them live as fully and comfortably as possible.

When is the best time to start hospice?

In February 2023, former U.S. President Jimmy Carter famously announced that he would enter hospice “to spend his remaining time at home with his family and receive hospice care instead of additional medical intervention.”

On February 18, 2024, one year after President Carter entered hospice, his family released a statement saying, “President Carter continues to be at home with his family… and the family is pleased that his decision last year to enter hospice care has sparked so many family discussions across the country on an important subject.”

In contrast, Carter’s wife, former First Lady Roslynn Carter, entered hospice only days before she died at the family home in Plains, Georgia in November 2023.

The Carter family’s choices reflect the individual nature of hospice and the way patients in hospice and their families are cared for and supported.

Many misperceptions about hospice

Some patients enter hospice weeks or days before they die, and some choose to begin hospice much sooner. Unfortunately, these important decisions are often influenced by common misperceptions about hospice like it is only for patients with cancer or that patients enter hospice just before they die.

Hospice is simply medical care for people with an anticipated life expectancy of 6 months or less IF the disease runs its normal course. As in the case of the Carter family, sometimes patients die just days after entering hospice, while others can live on for a year or more while in hospice.

People with end-stage kidney disease, heart disease, lung disease, advanced neurological disease, such as Alzheimer’s, and other illnesses may benefit from hospice.

Hospice services

The philosophy of hospice is to ensure quality of life over quantity of life. Patients in hospice receive individualized care from an interdisciplinary team of professionals, which includes their primary care provider and specially trained clinicians and volunteers.

They receive nursing care, providing symptom management and education as well as spiritual care, emotional support, and companionship. Hospice is most often provided where patients live, which may be their private residence, an assisted living community, or a skilled nursing facility. Others may opt for a specialized hospice facility, like CHP’s Defiance Area Inpatient Hospice Center.

A vitally important, and often overlooked element of hospice is how it supports family caregivers through the end-of-life journey and beyond.

No regrets

Families often tell us that choosing hospice was the best decision they made for their loved one and they only wish they had done it sooner. Patients say it allows them to feel in control, manage their symptoms, and feel more at peace.

Those who choose hospice care are not giving up hope. Choosing hospice is choosing to live fully, with dignity and respect, in the time that remains. Hospice provides individuals with care and support in a place where one is most comfortable, spending quality time with those they love in peace and comfort.

Patients often tell us that choosing hospice allows them to feel in control, and managing their symptoms helps them feel more at peace. For example, a recent patient at Hospice House continued his efforts to advance a cause that he was passionate about, calling and texting colleagues each day. The support and care he received in hospice also allowed him to focus on spending quality time with family and friends. These are the core goals of hospice care.

We encourage people to learn more about hospice. Contact CHP Home Care & Hospice. Our caring and knowledgeable staff are available and happy to answer your questions.