NIHSeniorHealth.gov, the website for older adults, makes aging-related health information easily accessible for family members and friends seeking reliable, easy-to-understand online health information. Health topics include general background information, open-captioned videos, quizzes, and frequently asked questions (FAQs).
Below are FAQs regarding End-of-Life.
What is end-of-life care?
End-of-life care is the broad term used to describe the special support and attention given during the period leading up to death, when the goals of care focus on comfort and quality of life. It may include hospice care and palliative care.
Where is end-of-life care provided?
End-of-life care can be provided in many places, including at home, in hospice care centers, in nursing homes, and in hospitals/critical care units.
What is palliative care?
Palliative care is comprehensive treatment of the discomfort, symptoms, and stress of serious illness, whatever the diagnosis. It works with a patient’s main treatment and can be given along with all other medical care. The main goal of palliative care is to improve quality of life. It focuses not just on a patient’s physical and medical needs, but also his or her emotional, social, and spiritual concerns. It also provides support to the patient’s family.
Palliative care is not just for people who might die soon. It is a resource for anyone with a long-term chronic disease such as heart failure, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, cystic fibrosis, HIV/AIDS, and Parkinson’s disease. Palliative care can be provided in any setting, including hospitals, nursing homes, outpatient palliative care clinics, other specialized clinics, or at home. All Veterans Health Administration hospitals now have a palliative care program.
The organized services available through palliative care can also be helpful to any older person experiencing significant general discomfort and disability late in life. Palliative care can also help patients, family members, and health care providers talk through treatment and care decisions.
What is hospice care?
Hospice care provides comprehensive comfort care to the dying person as well as support to his or her family. Attempts to cure the person’s illness are stopped. Candidates for hospice care are people with a serious illness who a health care provider thinks has less than 6 months to live. The goal of hospice is to relieve symptoms and make a dying person as comfortable as possible, maintaining that person’s quality of life and dignity.
Hospice care does not provide 24-hour, around-the-clock nursing care, so many patients are cared for by family members, hired caregivers, or nursing home staff in between visits from hospice care providers. Hospice care can be provided in the home, at an assisted living facility or nursing home, or in a hospital.
Some people think a health care provider’s suggestion to consider hospice means death is very near, but that is not always the case. Sometimes people do not start hospice care soon enough to take full advantage of the help it offers.
Where can I get more information about end of life?
The National Institutes of Health has the following information about end of life.
- Palliative Care: The Relief You Need When You’re Experiencing Symptoms of Serious Illness (also in Spanish)
- NIH Radio Interview on Palliative and Hospice Care with Dr. Patricia A. Grady, Director, National Institute on Nursing Research (NINR).
Preparing for the End of Life
- End-of-Life Care for People Who Have Cancer
- End of Life: Helping With Comfort and Care
- Enhance End-of-Life Care
- The Last Days of Life (also in Spanish)
Research on End of Life
- Because of Nursing Research: End-of-Life Care in the ICU
- Spotlight on End-of-Life Research
- Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow: NIH Research Timeline on End of Life
More about the NIH:
The NIHSeniorHealth.gov site was developed by the National Institute on Aging and the National Library of Medicine, both part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). NIHSeniorHealth features authoritative and up-to-date health information from the NIH. In addition, the American Geriatrics Society provides expert and independent review of some of the material found on this website. New topics are added to the site on a regular basis.