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Hospice care can manage pain, control symptoms, and improve quality of life for as long as life remains.

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Hospice Care

Many people who are terminally ill choose to remain at home or enter a home-like alternative care setting such as a hospice. This decision may be closely connected with a desire to achieve death with dignity. We also have a page of resources for hospice volunteer training.

A key objective in hospice and home care is to obtain high-quality palliative care to control pain and preserve the highest possible quality of life for as long as life remains. Ensuring optimal care depends on the nature of the specific disease process that is leading toward death.

Because it can take some time for hospice professionals to tailor palliative care and pain management to each person, it is best to begin some level of professional care before a crisis exists. Families often feel it is "too soon" to begin hospice care and wait until death is very near. Bringing hospice professionals in at the last minute limits their effectiveness. A better approach is to arrange introductory home meetings or hospice visits well in advance of need and obtain counseling from a hospice professional who can provide helpful suggestions on care arrangements. Put the support network in place before you need it.

The decision to begin hospice care may intensify feelings of grief and bereavement, both in the person who is dying and in others. Many support groups are available to help you through this end of life process, including groups for bereaved families.

Handbook for Mortals

The Handbook for Mortals is the book order from we recommend most often for general public education about the end of life. You can read the full text online thanks to our friends at Americans for Better Care of the Dying.

Tutorial: Controlling pain
You can read a web-based tutorial on controlling pain at the end of life. It covers basic issues about types of pain and ways to treat pain, including the use of opioid medications like morphine. [Opens popup window]

Tutorial: How to talk with your physician about pain
You're more likely to get effective pain relief if you can describe your pain fully. Here are some tips on how to describe what you are experiencing. You may read this online [opens popup window], or music speaker icon listen to it in audio form. [Audio requires Microsoft Media Player]

Heart-to-Heart: Caring for the Dying

Heart-to-Heart: Beyond Pain

music speaker icon Listen to an 18-minute program on pain control that dispels common myths that many people -- including doctors -- have about pain medications. This segment explains how good pain management can help you keep going as best you can. But getting good pain management may be difficult due to poor physician training, concerns about drug addiction, and laws that can get in the way of needed pain medications. The extract is taken from the Heart-to-Heart: Caring for the Dying documentary series, which provides three hours of audio education on end-of-life care. [Audio requires Microsoft Media Player]

Improving Care at the End of Life

Improving Care for the End of Life is an authoritative guide to quality improvement methods for health care professionals. order from You can read the full text online thanks to our friends at

Quality Improvement Sourcebook: Preventing, Assessing, and Treating Pain
You can read a web-based tutorial on quality improvement methods to deal with pain more effectively within your institution.