Greater Benefits From Longer Hospice Stays and Earlier Referrals

According to academic studies, bereaved family members whose loved ones were enrolled in hospice at least three months before death reported receiving nearly 95% of the services they expected. In addition, they found these services to be of greater benefit than families of patients with shorter lengths of stay.

In 2005, the median length of stay in hospices across the country was about three weeks, with 10% of the patients enrolled in the last day of life. In a study conducted by researchers from Pennsylvania, it was shown that “when a patient enrolls in hospice close to the time of death, hospice providers have little time to perform assessments, establish relationships, and initiate effective interventions.”

Results of this and other studies indicate that families feel they receive far greater benefits from longer lengths of stay in hospice.  Benefits rated by families as important include (1) pain and symptom control, (2) regular nursing visits, (3) assistance with care-giving, (4) emotional and spiritual support, (5) 24-hour clinical support and, (6) delivery of medications, medical supplies and equipment. The implication is many families find benefits in hospice that they consider valuable and that would have motivated their decision to enroll earlier had they been so advised by their medical providers. The comment most frequently reported was, “We wish we had known about hospice much sooner.”

In addition to improved access to services through earlier referrals, a report published in the Journal of Pain and Symptom Management in March, 2007, suggests that hospice care may be linked to longer survival.  These study findings “provide important information to dispel the myth that hospice hastens death and, instead, suggests that hospice is related to longer length of survival by days, even months, in certain terminally-ill patients.” This “extra time” might be particularly important to patients and their families as it may allow people to use the time at the end of life as a time of resolution and closure.

If you would like more information about hospice and palliative care, please contact Lighthouse Hospice at 1-800-HOSPICE or,


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