How to Choose a Hospice

Posted: 26/02/2018

If you or a loved one are approaching the end of life, you may want to consider hospice care. Did you know that the UK has been named as the best country for end-of-life care in the world? Nevertheless, despite the fact that choosing the place where you would like to die is an incredibly important decision, for many, discussing it is not something they feel comfortable with. However, if possible it is important to let loved ones know your wishes.

We take a look at the aim of hospice care, what hospice care covers, and how it can be provided, so that you can determine whether or not it is a suitable option for you and if it is, to choose the right hospice care for you.

What is hospice care?

For people who are living with a terminal illness, a hospice aims to provide the utmost care, comfort, and dignity to those who are suffering.

The point in which hospice care becomes an available option for people is once a person’s illness has been diagnosed as being incurable.

Currently, around 30% of people dying in the UK receive end-of-life care from hospices at some point during their illness. On average, one in ten of these sufferers will die in a hospice.

However, it is important to note that a hospice palliative team can help with those suffering from an incurable illness but are not necessarily at the end of their life. Hospice teams can help to control symptoms early on in your illness, such as helping with breathlessness or pain. This type of care may only require you being at the hospice for a limited amount of time, before being able to continue with your life.

What does hospice care provide?

Hospices do not only cover medical needs, they also provide:

  • Occupational therapy
  • Complementary therapies (massages)
  • Physiotherapy
  • Psychological care
  • Rehabilitation (such as through exercise to build strength)
  • Social activities
  • Spiritual needs
  • Practical care, for example how to deal with financial arrangements
  • Bereavement

Helping with all these types of support for the suffering and their families is known as holistic care. Hospices can also provide respite care, giving you and your carer a temporary break. Bereavement support is also provided to relatives once the person has passed away.

It is important to note that you may not decide to be a continuous recipient of hospice care. Many decide to dip in and out of care, or may temporarily go in in order to help deal with symptom control.

Where is hospice care provided?

This depends on your individual requirements. Hospice care can be provided in a care home, as an in-patient at a hospice or as a day patient (depending on your needs and circumstances). You can also receive hospice care in your own home if this is something you would prefer.  You can organise visits at home from specialist nurses if this is something you would prefer, or only organise short stays in the ward.

The main thing to remember is hospices are focused on a type of care rather than being inherently focused on where that care takes place. One of the most important aspects of hospice care is to make patients feel more at home than they would do if they were in a hospital, to alleviate the pain they have, and to provide them with dignity in a relaxing atmosphere.

Who is on a hospice team?

This will depend on where the hospice care takes place (whether it is at home or in a hospice), but can include the following:

  • Doctors
  • Nurses
  • Counsellors
  • Social workers
  • Trained volunteers – about 125,000 volunteers in UK hospices every year
  • Therapists

How do I find a hospice?

There are more than 200 hospices across the UK. You can find the right hospice care for you through a number of ways

  • You can contact Hospice UK who can provide help and support
  • You or your carer can find out about local hospices through your district nurse or GP
  • You can use the Dying Matters website, which provides a service enabling you to find local hospice care.

It is also important to note that hospice care is provided freely, through a combination of receiving funding from the public and NHS funding. There is no cost. However, hospice places in the UK tend to be extremely limited, as a result,  it is often the case that a hospice care team will usually require a referral from your doctor or nurse confirming that you need hospice care treatment. You can also contact your local hospice to find out further information about availability.