Hospice care is specialized care that provides physical comfort and emotional, social and spiritual support for people nearing the end of life. Your hospice team includes doctors, nurses, social workers and home health aides who provide care that centers on your comfort and dignity.
Hospice is specialized care you may receive when your prognosis is measured in months instead of years, and comfort is the primary goal. Hospice can help you prepare physically, emotionally and spiritually as you near the end of life. The aim of hospice is to allow people to maintain control over their lives, live with comfort and dignity, and feel supported as they prepare for death in their own way.
Hospice providers have expertise in managing symptoms, so you can feel comfortable and spend your final days in ways that are important to you. You and your family are surrounded with an extra layer of support from hospice nurses, social workers, chaplains, home health aides, physicians, volunteers and bereavement counselors.
The four levels of hospice care are:
Your hospice team will determine the most appropriate level of care for you. This level may change as your needs change.
Healthcare providers use Medicare guidelines to determine eligibility for hospice care. According to Medicare, you’re eligible for hospice if your life expectancy is six months or less if your illness were to run its natural course. Providers recommend hospice when treatments to cure your condition are no longer beneficial, and providers don’t expect your condition to improve. Medicare, Medicaid and most private insurers cover most hospice care costs.
Many people who receive hospice care have chronic conditions that lead to gradual declines in health that eventually become untreatable, including:
Members of hospice teams are experts at attending to the unique needs of people in the last months, weeks and days of life.
Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy
Hospice care includes a range of providers who care for your physical, emotional, social and spiritual well-being:
Hospice care provides resources and support for people at the end of life:
As you make end-of-life arrangements and consider the benefits of hospice care, it’s also important to understand what hospice doesn’t provide:
Some people worry that if they live past six months, they’ll lose access to hospice benefits, but this isn’t the case. The reality is that no one knows how long another person will live. Six months is the timeline Medicare uses. Other insurers use Medicare’s timeline as the standard. Many people receive such good care in hospice that they live longer than initially expected.
Your hospice doctor will assess your condition on an ongoing basis. Hospice care can be extended beyond six months. If your condition improves, your doctor will discharge you from hospice. Your benefits depend on your unique needs.
Palliative care focuses on improving quality of life for people with serious illnesses. You can receive palliative care at any stage of a serious illness alongside curative treatments. The goal is to relieve physical, emotional, social and spiritual difficulties that can occur when you have a serious illness.
Hospice focuses on comfort and providing an extra layer of support when the prognosis is measured in months instead of years. Hospice is beneficial when curative treatments are no longer helping or when a person chooses to no longer pursue treatment for their disease. With hospice, the primary goal is comfort.
Absolutely not. Receiving hospice care means that you’re advocating for living your life as fully and as comfortably as possible despite the realities of declining health. If your healthcare provider recommends hospice care, it’s an example of their commitment to your well-being.
Still, it’s important to remember that you have the final say about enrolling in hospice care or deciding to continue treatment. You always have the option to change your mind.
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Death is a part of life just as much as birth is. Death is something we’ll each experience one day. Having conversations with loved ones about what’s important to you if you develop a serious illness and how (and where and with whom) you’d like to spend the last months of your life can help you and your loved ones make decisions about your care. Talk to your healthcare provider about advance care planning. Having a clear idea of your wishes at the end of your life can allow you the freedom to live each day you’re in good health with greater peace of mind.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 02/08/2023.
Learn more about our editorial process.