For Consumers > Definition


Hospice is a philosophy of care that accepts death as a natural part of life, seeking neither to hasten nor prolong the dying process.  Caring that strives to help patients truly “live until they die” – without the fear of dying in pain, dying alone or losing control.

Hospice is a comprehensive, medically directed, team-oriented program of care that seeks to treat and comfort terminally ill patients and their families at home or in a home-like setting, establishing pain management and symptom control as clinical goals, and understanding that psychological and spiritual pain are as significant as physical pain.

Palliative Care

Palliative care is patient and family-centered care that optimizes quality of life by anticipating, preventing and treating suffering. Palliative care involves addressing physical, intellectual, emotional, social, and spiritual needs and facilitating patient autonomy, access to information and choice.  Palliative care means making every day the best it can be by expanding the traditional disease-model medical treatments to include the goal of enhancing quality of life for the patient and their family.

Programs and Services

An important part of hospice is that patients and families help decide what care is right for them.  All patients have certain rights to care, which include

  • Treatment related to the life-limiting illness that is included in the hospice plan of care, plus medical equipment and supplies, services and coordination of care
  • Medications to control the pain and other symptoms of the life-limiting illness
  • Hospice inpatient care (both acute care and respite care) in a hospice facility
  • Home visits by hospice staff, plus skilled in-home nursing for crisis management
  • Consulting physicians
  • Volunteer support
  • Bereavement follow-up

Hospice is a choice, not a requirement. The patient may choose to withdraw from the hospice plan of care at any time to seek other medical treatments that may become available.

Learn More about Geriatrics and Extended Care for Veterans.