End of Life Care

In end-of-life care, the focus shifts from curative treatment to palliative care - addressing the physical, social, emotional, and spiritual needs of patients. Palliative care may be provided in a wide variety of settings, including the patient's home, a nursing home or hospital.

Hospices provide care and support to patients and their families that make the end of life as comfortable and meaningful as possible. Services are provided by a team that include nursing care, personal care, social services, physician visits, social work, pastoral care, volunteer services and bereavement support. Pain and symptom management is a priority. Hospice respects patients' individual goals and choices about how to live their final days.

In Maine, the hospice system has not been fully used by cancer patients, their families or their caregivers. There are complex reasons to this, including lack of awareness, cultural beliefs, barriers to access, and cost. In addition, pain control is a major problem for many cancer patients. Even though the pain connected with cancer can be managed well in most patients, cancer pain is often under-treated.

Here are facts about hospice and palliative care:
  • Most Mainers do not know what hospice is or what services are offered.
  • Comprehensive, coordinated end-of-life services across health care settings nationally and in Maine are just beginning to be developed.
  • When surveyed, 90% of hospice agency respondents in Maine reported that they provide services for which they are not paid.
  • An estimated 60-70% of all cancer patients do not receive adequate palliation of pain and symptoms.