Who can get hospice care?

Hospice care helps adults, young adults and children with all sorts of conditions. The availability of hospice care is dependent on need rather than prognosis. This means that people can use hospice care at any stage of their condition, not just at the very end of their lives.

A child and toy bear sat on bean bags

Terminal and life-limiting conditions where a hospice and palliative care approach may be beneficial include:

  • dementia;
  • heart, liver and renal failure;
  • respiratory conditions such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD);
  • neurological conditions such as motor neurone disease;
  • frailty;
  • cancer.

How can I get hospice care?

Your GP or hospital doctor would usually refer you for hospice care. A district nurse may also refer you to a community palliative care nurse or Hospice at Home service.

People are usually referred to their nearest hospice or palliative care team, but in special circumstances people may be able to be referred to a care provider further away.

Some hospices will take self-referrals. However, the hospice would want to talk to the person’s doctor to make sure that the support they could offer would be appropriate at that time.

Hospice care is free for patients, their carers and family members.

Care for children and young people

It is not only adults who need hospice and palliative care. Babies, children and young people with life-limiting conditions also need hospice and palliative care support, often over a number of years and potentially into young adulthood. Children’s hospices support children and families to make the most of the time they have together.

Therapies are central to children’s hospice care; they are about developing and improving a child’s function but they are also about having fun and enabling a range of age appropriate experiences. These include: art therapy; hydrotherapy; music therapy; play therapy; and complementary therapies.

While the hospice provides expert, tailored care, with access to specialist facilities, many families prefer to receive all or part of their care in their own homes. Community-based services, working alongside other health and care providers can support families at home.

Who else can help?

GPs, district nurses, paid carers and health and social care staff in hospitals and care homes can provide some palliative care. However, they will use a hospice or palliative care team when more specialist support is needed.

There are palliative care teams that work in hospitals alongside other doctors, nurses, and other health and social care professionals. Their role is to support the hospital staff by providing education, training and specialist advice on controlling pain and symptoms.

The team will also provide emotional support to patients and their carers, and will advise staff on planning for when people go home or transfer to a hospice, community hospital or care home.

Local social services departments may also be able to help by providing social care services to support people who are living at home. These services may include arranging help with personal care (such as getting washed and dressed), the delivery of meals and other practical issues.

I’d like to know more

The organisations and resources listed below can help you find out more about planning for end of life and hospice and palliative care.

Dying Matters

Dying Matters aims to help people talk more openly about dying, death and bereavement, and to make plans for the end of life. They present useful information on subjects including making plans, writing wills, bereavement, talking to children about death and avoiding misconceptions about dying. All the leaflets are freely available to download and print from their website.

Care for children and young people

Together for Short Lives is a UK-wide charity that speaks out for all children and young people who are expected to have short lives. The Together for Short Lives Charter sets out what families should expect to receive from their local children’s palliative care services in terms of information and support.

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