What is hospice care, and when will a church member need it?

If deacons hear of church members in hospice care, then they should be ready to help the family with prayers and support…

Hospice care is an end-of-life treatment whose aim is to manage pain and symptoms after conventional healthcare treatments stop working or the effects of treatment are worse than the disease. WebMD explains:

During an illness that is terminal, you or your loved ones may talk with your doctor and decide the treatments meant to cure or slow a disease are no longer working, or you’re ready to stop them. Your doctor can make a referral for hospice care, also known as end-of-life care.

You want relief from pain, shortness of breath, and other symptoms so that you can focus on the people and things you care about the most. That’s when hospice, or end-of-life care, may help.

Christians understand the truth of this life: we must all pass through death. Modern healthcare technology has enabled an increase of the average lifetime, but it cannot stop us from dying. We have immortal souls, but we do not yet have immortal bodies.

Just because a technology is available to use doesn’t make it a moral imperative to use it. That’s especially true because costs are always a factor: the toll the treatment will take on our quality of life and the financial expense we must pay to use it.

Will a person have to disinherit their children to pay for a very expensive treatment that is not guaranteed to work? If it does work, how much more time will the person get? What do they plan to do with that time? Jesus said to count the cost. Will the benefits of a longer life be worth spending a large portion of the money set aside for an inheritance?

These are complex questions, and sometimes the answer is simply no: the treatment is not worth the cost. Sometimes it won’t matter because an illness or disease is so far along that there is nothing that can be done. Sometimes a person would rather live out the rest of their life pain-free and with as much clarity as possible to enjoy their time left with friends, family, and grandchildren. And so, people shouldn’t feel guilty about turning to hospice care. It also offers benefits for the family members:

Some people might think using hospice means they’re giving up. Others may worry that they won’t get the medical care they need. But the service simply focuses on the quality of your life instead of trying to cure a disease.

Your team may include a doctor, nurse, social worker, counselor, chaplain (if you’re religious), home health aide, and trained volunteers. They work together to meet your physical, emotional, and spiritual needs.

Hospice is for family members, too. It offers counseling and help with practical things such as cleaning house and shopping.


Hospice is usually thought of as an end-of-life treatment, but that’s not always the case:

You may enter a program if your doctor states that you have a terminal illness and that death can be expected in 6 months or less. You can stay in hospice beyond that time if your doctor and the team decide you still have only a short time to live.

Hospice isn’t always a permanent choice.

For example, if your kidneys are failing, you might choose the hospice program rather than continuing with dialysis. But you can still change your mind, stop hospice care, and start back on treatments. Other people may get better unexpectedly and quit the service with the option of returning later.

Hospice differs from palliative care, which serves anyone who is seriously ill, not just those who are dying and no longer seeking a cure.

There are four levels of care:

Routine Home Care. The most common level of hospice care, this includes nursing and home health aide services.

Continuous Home Care. This is when a patient needs continuous nursing care during a time of crisis.

General Inpatient Care. Short-term care during times when pain and symptoms can’t be managed without a hospital setting.

Respite Care. Short-term care in a facility during times when the patient’s caregiver needs a break in caregiving.

Respite care is for the caregiver. If a loved one is in hospice care at home, the caregiver is going to need a break from time to time. It would be a great expression of love for the deacons to work with church members, especially the women in the church, to help organize respites for the caregiver if possible. It could also save the family a lot of money.

In-home care is one of the most common forms of hospice care. But hospice can also be administered in nursing homes, hospitals, and hospice centers.

Hospice centers specialize in optimizing the quality of a person’s end-of-life care. One hospice center provides a checklist of events to help determine when it’s time to call hospice:

You should call hospice if your loved one is experiencing any of the symptoms below:

* frequent visits to the ER or hospital admissions
* a decline in their ability to perform daily tasks including eating, getting dressed, walking, or using the bathroom
* an increase in falls
* changes to their mental abilities
* progressive weight loss
* skin tears, infections, and other signs of deteriorating health

This hospice center offers a short, 90-second video that quickly explains the benefits of their service. Watch the embedded video below:


Hospice treatment is intended to make a person’s life as comfortable as possible in their final days of battling a terminal disease or illness.

It focuses on relieving pain and other symptoms caused by the disease.

There are several forms that hospice care can take. One of the most common is home care. More serious conditions may require hospitalization. Sometimes the caregivers will need a break, or respite, and this is one area in which the deacons and the church may be able to help them.

Hospice centers are available that specialize in end-of-life comfort and around-the-clock care. These are some of the most expensive forms of hospice care.