Explainer: What is hospice care?

OSF Palliative care expert shares the benefits of a hospice program.
Published: Feb. 20, 2023 at 5:29 PM CST
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ROCKFORD, Ill. (WIFR) - “You matter because of who you are. You matter to the last moment of your life. And we’ll do all we can, not only to help you die peacefully but also live until you die,” said Dame Cicely Saunders, the founder of modern hospice care.

Medical director of hospice and palliative care at OSF, Dr. Sarah Whelan, explains the greatest misunderstanding about hospice and how long patients can actually live while receiving care.

“You know he’s pretty close to the end when he’s made that decision,” Whelan says of the recent news involving former President Jimmy Carter’s transfer to hospice care. “It is wonderful that he and his family can benefit from those services for a short time but in reality, it would be so nice for families and patients to get on hospice services long before that where they can benefit from all that hospice has to offer.”

Whelan says experts generally recommend hospice when treatment no longer works, and when someone is expected to live about six months or less. The goal of hospice or palliative “comfort” care is to help patients manage their symptoms and pain levels.

“Choosing hospice care does not mean one is “giving up” on life, but they are choosing to invest their energy in living,” OSF HealthCare states on its hospice webpage.