Living with Dying

Hospice in-patient care

Hospices aim to meet people's physical, emotional, social and spiritual needs. Some people need particular help in controlling pain or other symptoms, and may be admitted for a short while if a bed is available (see 'Insufficient hospice care'). Many of those admitted return home after a few days, when symptoms have been controlled.

A few hospices offer respite care to those who are seriously ill, though this is increasingly rare. Many offer day care support to those who can stay at home (see 'Hospice day care'), and some offer short-term intensive home support (see 'Care at home: nursing'). 

Hospices strive to offer dignity, peace and calm at the end of life. People who are dying may be able to remain in a hospice, receiving expert care from doctors, nurses, social workers, counsellors, physiotherapists, and other members of the team, until they die.

A few of those we talked to had spent some time in a hospice as an in-patient. One woman, for example, went into a hospice for respite care for two weeks every three months.

Some people compared care in a hospice with care in a hospital, and said that hospice care was more relaxed. For example, one man said he could get up if he felt well enough or he could stay in bed as he wished. He wasn't 'forced' out of bed. People also mentioned that in their experience hospices (which are usually funded by charities) were better staffed than hospitals, which meant that nurses had much more time to sit and talk and attend to all their other needs.

Some people imagined that a hospice would be a depressing place. One woman who we talked to found it very upsetting to realise that other people had died during her stay.

Others were pleasantly surprised. A man who had at first said he wanted to die at home had changed his mind after getting to know the hospice.

Many talked about the peaceful environment. A woman with lung cancer described the calm atmosphere and the excellent care she received. Food was prepared exactly as she wanted it, and pre-dinner drinks were available. She was offered complementary therapies, including music therapy, which she found helpful.

A man with prostate cancer had two spells in a hospice. He was impressed by the efficient organisation, and the way in which his pain was controlled (see also 'Pain and pain control').

The staff do their best to help patients and their families. One woman mentioned that there was a playroom for visiting children. Another person said that his local hospice had a special room for people wishing to smoke.

Rooms are sometimes available for relatives who wish to spend the night. One woman was allowed to stay in the hospice when her husband was dying. She was given a bed beside him in a private room and was there the night he died.

​For more information and help finding a hospice see our Resources section.

Last reviewed July 2017.

Last updated July 2017.


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