What is hospice?

Residential Hospice Is Another Choice for Palliative and End-of-Life Care

A hospice residence embraces a holistic model of family-centred end-of-life care in a home-like environment.  It is a model of care that recognizes that dying is not just a medical and physical event focused on pain and symptom management. It’s a social event and a process that encompasses the psychological, emotional, spiritual and social needs of an individual. 

Excellent hospice residence care demands a community of clinicians, volunteers and leaders working together.  Physicians, nurses, allied health-care providers, spiritual leaders, social workers, administrators, and volunteers are trained to deliver integrated care that addresses the individual needs of patients and families. 

Every individual and family has unique needs and hospice residence is one option for end-of-life care. Other options include hospitals, palliative care units in hospitals or complex care facilities, or home-care. Hospice care is for people who want the comfort of a home-like environment but for a variety of reasons can’t be at home.


Meet Pearl

At 78 years old, Pearl was proud of her large family and was always happy when they came to visit her. She was fiercely independent and was grateful that her health allowed her to live on her own in a Toronto condominium. When she was diagnosed with a terminal illness, she wanted to spend meaningful time with members of her family but felt strongly that she did not want her relationship with them to turn into caregiving. She was supported for many months through a home-based palliative care program.

As Pearl came closer to the end of her life, in-home care became more demanding for the family. While her son and daughter were committed to caring for her at home, this is not what she wanted.  She made the decision to enter a hospice residence.  

Her family visited daily – they decorated her room with her favourite belongings including family photos, her favourite blanket and an old record player to listen to the music she loved growing up.  

When Pearl was resting, family members would go to the communal kitchen for a snack and meet other families going through the same thing. Her son and daughter had frequent family meetings with Pearl’s care-giving team, and could share Pearl’s values and priorities, so that the team could shape the care based on what they were hearing from them.

When Pearl was reaching the last few days of her life, her children began to struggle emotionally and had conflicting opinions about how things should proceed. A social worker and grief counsellor sat down with the family and explained that their response was very normal and offered them guidance. 

Pearl died peacefully in hospice with her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren at her side.