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Hospice is a type of care and a philosophy of care which focuses on the palliation of a terminally ill patient’s symptoms. These symptoms can be physical, emotional, spiritual or social in nature. The concept of hospice has been evolving since the 11th century. Then, and for centuries thereafter, hospices were places of hospitality for the sick, wounded, or dying, as well as those for travelers and pilgrims.
The modern concept of hospice includes palliative care for the incurably ill given in such institutions as hospitals or nursing homes, but also care provided to those who would rather die in their own homes. Hospice in the United States has grown from a volunteer-led movement to improve care for people dying alone, isolated, or in hospitals, to a significant part of the health care system.
In 2008, 1.45 million individuals and their families received hospice care. Hospice is the only Medicare benefit that includes pharmaceuticals, medical equipment, twenty-four hour/seven day a week access to care and support for loved ones following a death. Most hospice care is delivered at home. Hospice care is also available to people in home-like hospice residences, nursing homes, assisted living facilities, veterans’ facilities, hospitals, and prisons.