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Understanding the Four Stages of Hospice Care: A Guide for Families

By Jessica Deng

Hospice is a type of health care that focuses on the quality of life for people who are experiencing advanced, life-limiting illness and their caregivers. Hospice care is used when a disease, such as late-stage cancer, gets to the point when treatment is no longer an option and is unable to control the disease.Hospice care provides compassionate care for people in the last phases of an incurable disease or simply aging so that they may live as fully and comfortably as possible. The following is a review of each of the four levels of care that providers must offer to patients:Hospice care is an important part of end-of-life treatment. It can provide both emotional and spiritual support to those facing terminal illnesses or chronic conditions. By understanding the four levels of hospice care – routine home care, continuous home care, general inpatient care, and respite care – individuals, families, and caregivers can make informed decisions about when to begin this type of treatment.


Routine hospice care is the most popular level of care and often refers to a series of regularly scheduled visits to help the patient dealing with a terminal illness and their family. It includes nursing services for pain relief and symptom management, social services, and health-aide services.


Continuous hospice care is for patients with more severe need for symptom management and palliative care. Hospice team members work in shifts of up to 24-hours per day to help patients remain at home, rather than be admitted to a hospital.


Inpatient care is provided in a facility – often a hospital, nursing home, or a form of assisted living facility. Inpatient care also provides nurses around the clock within the facility to give medication, treatments and support in a variety of ways.


For patients being cared for at home, some hospice services offer respite care to allow family and friends some time away from caregiving. When caregivers feel overwhelmed, they can request respite care. Respite care is more for the caregiver than it is for the hospice patient.

Finally, we would like to remind you that the best level of hospice care is ideal to consult with a hospice care team. At LifeWorx, we are available to discuss care options for you and can help find the right caregiver who can offer all four levels of care to an individual or yourself. We take pride in helping our clients and families find solutions and provide guidance.

Stay tuned for an upcoming article: What to Expect as a Hospice Caregiver

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