Are Hospice Care in Nursing Homes Worth It?

how does hospice work in a nursing home

In today’s healthcare landscape, nursing homes often offer hospice care as part of their services for residents nearing the end of life. This raises a fundamental question: why do nursing homes push hospice care, and what does it entail for residents and their families? It’s important to take a deeper look

Do nursing homes offer hospice services?

Yes, many nursing homes offer hospice care. Hospice care is special support for people with terminal illnesses. It focuses on managing pain, providing comfort, and improving quality of life instead of trying to cure the illness. Nursing homes often work with hospice agencies to provide these services, so residents can get hospice care without moving to another place. This setup allows residents to receive continuous and complete care in a familiar setting. The aim is to give the patient the best quality of life possible during their remaining time.

What type of hospice service can you expect?

Hospice services in nursing homes are thorough, covering medical, emotional, and spiritual support:

  • Symptom Management: Hospice teams, which include doctors and nurses, specialize in easing pain and managing other uncomfortable symptoms. They regularly assess the patient’s condition to adjust pain relief methods as necessary.
  • Medication Administration: Hospice professionals handle the correct dosing and timing of medications to effectively manage symptoms and ensure comfort.
  • Counseling: Emotional support is provided to residents and their families, helping them cope with the emotional challenges of terminal illness. This may include grief counseling and participation in support groups.
  • Daily Living Assistance: Certified nursing assistants assist with daily activities like bathing, dressing, and eating, maintaining the patient’s dignity and quality of life.
  • Spiritual Support: Hospice care often includes spiritual guidance, addressing the spiritual needs of both the patient and their family. Chaplains and spiritual counselors are available to offer comfort and address existential concerns.

Are there benefits and risks to nursing home hospice care?

To determine if hospice care in nursing homes is beneficial, consider its advantages and potential drawbacks:


  • Familiar Environment: Residents receive care in a place they know well, surrounded by familiar faces among staff and fellow residents. This familiarity can reduce stress and anxiety for both patients and their families, providing a sense of stability and comfort.
  • Integrated Care: Nursing home staff work closely with hospice teams, ensuring a coordinated approach to care. This collaboration covers all aspects of the patient’s needs, from medical requirements to emotional and spiritual support.
  • Cost Efficiency: Hospice services are typically covered by Medicare, including those offered in nursing homes. This coverage includes medical care, medications, and necessary equipment, lessening financial burdens for families. Some private insurance plans and Medicaid may also cover these services.


  • Resource Limitations: Nursing homes may have fewer resources compared to dedicated hospice facilities, which can affect the range and intensity of available services. This limitation might result in less specialized care, such as fewer specialized staff members or limited access to certain therapies.
  • Quality Variability: The quality of hospice care can vary among nursing homes based on staff training, resources, and their commitment to palliative care principles. While some facilities excel in hospice care, others may not meet the same standards. Families should research carefully, asking about the hospice team’s expertise and the nursing home staff’s experience with end-of-life care.

Understanding these factors helps families make informed decisions about whether nursing home hospice care is suitable for their loved one’s needs.

Why do nursing homes push their hospice service?

Nursing homes support hospice care to improve the lives of residents with terminal illnesses. This proactive approach aims to provide compassionate and personalized care, focusing on comfort and dignity in the final stages of life. Here are more reasons why nursing homes promote their hospice services:

  • Comprehensive Care Coordination: Integrating hospice care allows nursing homes to create thorough care plans. These plans include specialized medical treatment, emotional support, and spiritual guidance. This approach ensures that all aspects of a resident’s needs are met seamlessly.
  • Reduction in Hospitalizations: Hospice care is designed to manage symptoms effectively within the nursing home, reducing the need for hospital visits. This minimizes stress for residents and their families and helps control healthcare costs by avoiding unnecessary hospital stays.
  • Enhanced Staff Training: Providing hospice services involves additional training for nursing home staff. This training improves their skills in palliative care and symptom management, leading to better overall care quality throughout the facility.
  • Meeting Resident and Family Expectations: Many families and residents prefer to receive hospice care in the familiar setting of the nursing home. Offering hospice services allows nursing homes to meet these expectations, leading to higher satisfaction levels among residents and their families.

Is it better to get hospice from nursing homes or hospice centers?

Choosing between hospice care in a nursing home or a dedicated hospice center depends on the resident’s needs and their family’s situation. Different situations require different approaches, and understanding who benefits more from each type of care can help make the best decision.

Who benefits more from hospice care in nursing homes

  • Residents with Established Relationships: Residents who have lived in a nursing home for a long time often have strong connections with the staff and other residents. Staying in this familiar environment can provide significant emotional comfort and stability during their final days.
  • Those Needing Integrated Care: Residents who need consistent and coordinated care benefit from the collaboration between nursing home and hospice staff. This approach ensures that care plans are well-managed and that there is clear communication about the resident’s needs.
  • Patients Preferring Minimal Disruption: For residents and families who want to avoid the stress of moving to a new facility, staying in the nursing home allows for a smoother transition to hospice care without the need to relocate. 

Considerations for decision-making

  • Level of Care Required: Evaluate the resident’s medical needs. If they require specialized medical treatments or intensive symptom management, a dedicated hospice center might be more appropriate.
  • Emotional Comfort: Consider the emotional impact of the care environment. If the resident values the familiarity of their current nursing home and has strong relationships with the staff, staying there may provide more comfort.
  • Family Preferences and Accessibility: Think about the family’s ability to visit and support the resident. Proximity to the facility can play a significant role. A nursing home close to family members may be preferable for ensuring frequent visits and support.

Know what you’ll get from a nursing home’s hospice care

Opting for hospice care in a nursing home provides personalized support in a familiar setting, addressing physical, emotional, and spiritual needs comprehensively. Families should research and discuss options thoroughly to ensure they match the resident’s preferences and expectations. Understanding these aspects helps families make informed decisions that prioritize their loved one’s comfort and dignity during this final phase of life.

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