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Hospice is an approach to caring for a patient with a terminal illness. A terminal illness is defined as a condition for which the life expectancy is less than six months. Two physicians must certify that a person has a terminal illness. Licensed hospice programs in Maryland provide support and comfort to the patient and the family during the final months of life by offering care that relieves pain and other symptoms. The goal is to ensure the patient's remaining time is as free of pain and symptoms as possible.

Hospice care improves the quality of life for the patient by providing an individualized plan of care that focuses on the patient's comfort and dignity. Open communication is encouraged among the patient, family and the hospice team.

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The word “hospice” is derived from the Latin word, “hospitium” meaning guesthouse. The word was used in medieval Europe to describe a shelter for sick and tired travelers returning from religious pilgrimages. The modern hospice movement began in England in the 1960's when Dr. Cicely Saunders established St. Christopher's Hospice in London. This center used a team approach to provide compassionate pain management for dying patients.

In 2016, there were 4,382 certified hospice programs in the United States, according to the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization.


“You matter to the last moment of your life, and we will do all we can, not only to help you die peacefully, but to live until you die.”—Dame Cicely Saunders