Hospice decisionsHospice care, usually in-home, is designed for people in the terminal stages of their disease. Though hospice care is for those with a life expectancy of less than 6 months, choosing hospice is not about giving up or giving in. Rather, it is about increasing patients' comfort and reducing their stress and the stress of their caregivers and families.

Hospice care is characterized by compassion for the patient and his or her loved ones and caregivers, providing for a maximum amount of quality time. Whether provided in a specialty facility or at home, hospice is meant to help patients live their lives to the fullest. In some cases, people who are in hospice may end up leaving hospice. There are many considerations involved in the decision to use hospice and which providers and services to choose. As with all critical end-of-life decisions, hospice should be addressed as early as possible after diagnosis. When the time comes during which hospice may be appropriate, it may be too late to properly consider the options and help your loved one make the right choice.

For a comprehensive set of resources on hospice, including caregivers' tools, please see the Hospice Foundation of America.

Palliative care and hospice are often confused with each other. See our discussion of palliative care, as well as additional information on choosing hospice care, under "Selecting an Appropriate Treatment Plan."