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A Brief History of Hospice Philosophy and Care

Hospice care has been a practice since the time of the Romans as a way to care for and improve the lives of the terminally ill and elderly through emotional and spiritual care. Many people have heard of hospice or have had a loved one in hospice, but that doesn't mean everyone knows what hospice is or how holistic hospice came to be.

The term hospice comes from the Latin "Hospitum" which means hospitality or place of rest and protection of the ill or weary. The first hospices were most likely dedicated to caring for weary travelers, pilgrims, and ill or elderly people on route to the holy land of Jerusalem. They flourished throughout the middle ages but decreased during the age of enlightenment due to the disbursing of religious orders. They would be revived through the centuries, eventually culminating in the hospice movement.

The first modern hospice care service was created by Doctor Cicely Saunders in 1967. She believed that rather than focusing on what brought someone to hospice, patients should be the focus and their treatment should focus on their "total pain" or the combination of physical, emotional/psychological, and spiritual pain. She opened St. Christopher's Hospice, in south London, based on these principles.

Florance Wald brought the philosophy of hospice services to the United States in 1971, establishing Hospice, Inc. In 1974, the first hospice legislation to provide funding for holistic hospice care was introduced by Senators Frank Church and Frank E. Moss. By 1984, the U.S. National Hospice Organization and the International Association for Hospice and Palliative Care (IAHPC) were founded.

Hospice care was given more Creedence with the creation of the Medicare Hospice Benefit, which became permanent in 1986. Finally, President Clinton made hospice guaranteed as the benefit of medicare and an acceptable component of health care. Hospice and palliative care are now widespread with facilities across the country dedicated to helping care for every aspect of the patient.

Today, well over a million people are in holistic hospice care. The care provided by holistic hospice volunteers and workers not only focuses on the patient's wellbeing but the family's as well. The philosophy of holistic hospice allows for a better quality of life for both patients and their families.

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