The term "hospice" dates back to medieval times when it was used to describe a place of shelter and rest for the weary or sick travelers on a long journey. Today, the term "hospice" refers to humane and compassionate care given to people in the final phases of a terminal illness in a variety of settings – primarily in homes, and to a lesser degree, in hospitals and freestanding inpatient facilities.
In 1967, Dr. Cecily Saunders founded St. Christopher's Hospice in England to focus attention on the care of the terminally ill persons and their families.
The movement gained emphasis in the United States through the work of Dr. Elizabeth Kubler-Ross and the founding of the first Hospice Home Care Program of New Haven, CT in 1974. There are now over 5,000 hospice programs in the U.S.
Hospice is a "Philosophy of Caring" for dying patients and their families. It recognizes that death is part of the human life cycle and that every person has the right to die with dignity, peace, and comfort. Hospice neither postpones nor hastens death; it exists so that patients and their families might be free to attain a measure of mental and spiritual readiness for death that is satisfactory to them. Bereavement follow-up is also part of the hospice program.
Hospice is a team of caregivers "serving all people during the end of life's journey."