Hospice care is a type of health care that focuses on the palliation of a terminally ill patient's pain and symptoms and attending to their emotional and spiritual needs at the end of life. Hospice care prioritizes comfort and quality of life by reducing pain and suffering. Hospice care provides an alternative to therapies focused on life-prolonging measures that may be arduous, likely to cause more symptoms, or are not aligned with a person's goals.
Hospice care in the United States is largely defined by the practices of the Medicare system and other health insurance providers, which cover inpatient or at home hospice care for patients with terminal diseases who are estimated to live six months or less. Hospice care under the Medicare Hospice Benefit requires documentation from two physicians estimating a person has less than six months to live if the disease follows its usual course. Hospice benefits include access to a multidisciplinary treatment team specialized in end of life care and can be accessed in the home, long term care facility or the hospital.
Outside the United States, the term tends to be primarily associated with the particular buildings or institutions that specialize in such care. Such institutions may similarly provide care mostly in an end-of-life setting, but they may also be available for patients with other palliative care needs. Hospice care includes assistance for patients' families to help them cope with what is happening and provide care and support to keep the patient at home.