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Hospice care aims to improve the quality of life and wellbeing of adults, children and young people who have a terminal illness.  

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What is hospice care?

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Hospice care aims to improve the quality of life and wellbeing of adults, children and young people who have a terminal illness or a long term condition that cannot be cured, also known as life-limiting. It is free for patients, their carers and family members.

Hospice care can be provided at any stage of a person’s condition, not just at the end of their lives.  It can include symptom management, and social, practical, emotional and spiritual support. It helps people live as fully and as well as they can to the end of their lives, however long that may be.

This type of care is also known as palliative care, and can also be provided in other places, such as in a hospital, at home, or in a community setting.

Who can get hospice care?

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People with a terminal illness, or a condition that is long term and can’t be cured (also called life-limiting) can benefit from hospice care. Conditions where hospice care 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

Babies, children and young people with life-limiting conditions can also receive hospice care. This can be provided from birth if needed, and over a number of years.

How can I get hospice care?

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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.

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

Who else can help?

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

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 like dealing with benefits.

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Two hospice nurses working in a hospice

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