Choosing hospice

Hospice care offers end-of-life comfort and support; it works best if you think about it ahead of time.

Most of us have an opinion about what constitutes good care for ourselves and our loved ones at the end of life—and, despite American cultural diversity, research shows that most of us have similar opinions. We want to be as independent as possible and to have our values and preferences respected. According to a report published in 2003 by the Hastings Center, a bioethics research institute ("Access to Hospice Care: Expanding Boundaries, Overcoming Barriers"), most Americans would like to die peacefully at home, surrounded by people they care about. We also share common fears of suffering in pain, losing control, being a burden to others, and being abandoned.

In the 1970s, when a rising number of terminally ill people were dying alone in hospitals, these hopes and fears gave impetus to the adoption of hospice care in the United States. The philosophy of hospice is that everyone has the right to die free of pain and with dignity, and that families should be supported in helping to make this possible. Hospice programs are equipped to provide quality care to the dying and support for their families and caregivers. Their services can be especially important to women, who shoulder most of the burden of caregiving and often must help an aging parent or other relative make arrangements.

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