Palliative care and hospice care: what are these?

Palliative care and hospice care: what are these?

From 1 – 8 May it’s Hospice Week: here’s what you need to know about hospice care and palliative care, whether for yourself, a family member or a friend.

None of us likes to think that we may ever be faced with a life-threatening illness, but it can happen to anyone. We also may be in a position of having to care for a family member or friend facing such a condition.

A hospice provides a specialised type of care for those facing a life-limiting illness, such as cancer and Aids. Contrary to popular perception, a hospice is not a place where people go to die and patients often stay for between twelve and fourteen days before returning home.

Hospices deliver palliative care to patients. This is a type of care that strives to improve the quality of life of patients and their families facing the problem associated with life-threatening illness.

Palliative care aims, among other things, to provide relief from pain and other distressing symptoms for ill or dying patients, doesn’t hasten or postpone death, integrates the psychological and spiritual aspects of patient care, provides bereavement counselling to both patients and families, and is aimed at enhancing the quality of life.

Hospice care is generally associated with the receiving of a great deal of love, care and skilled attention from trained medical nursing and support staff.

Hospices deliver palliative care in three main ways according to the Hospice Palliative Care Association of South Africa:

  • Mobile teams from the hospice provide home-based care for patients and support for the families
  • Hospice community centres where people meet who have palliative care needs
  • Hospice in-patient units where 24-hour palliative care is administered. (Different hospices have different admission criteria, but in-patients often have pain that is difficult to control at home, the family needs respite, or there are no support systems at home for the patient.)

Increasingly, normal hospitals are also starting to provide palliative care to patients.

Hospices in South Africa are often non-profit NGOs. To find out more about hospice care in your area, contact the HPCA on


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