“A concept of care intended to provide comfort and support to patients and their families when a life-limiting illness no longer responds to cure-oriented treatments.”
In addition to controlling pain while offering comfort and dignity, hospice incorporates a holistic approach. It deals with the emotional, social and spiritual impacts of the terminal disease on the patient, family and friends.
The word reflects the heart of hospice services. Hospice stems from the Latin “hospitium,” or guesthouse. The term originally described a shelter for weary and sick travelers returning from religious pilgrimages.
The History of Hospice
The concept began quietly in England in the late 1940s when the mother of what would become a worldwide hospice movement, Cicely Saunders, after watching a loved one die, determined to be a physician who played a major role in helping the terminally ill die in comfort and dignity.
Dame Saunders founded St. Christopher’s Hospice in London in 1967. In 1968, she brought the concept of hospice to the U.S., where it flowered. Today, more than 5,000 hospice organizations dot all 50 states.
Dame Cecily Saunders herself died peacefully at St. Christopher’s in 2005.
“As the body becomes weaker, so the spirit becomes stronger.”
Dame Cecily Saunders