top of page

What does it mean to “enter hospice care?”

Updated: Feb 23, 2023

It was recently announced that former President Jimmy Carter, 98, had chosen to enter hospice care at home. What does that mean?

Choosing hospice care means that former President Carter has chosen to end curative medical treatment in favor of pain relief and other measures to make him comfortable. It also means that a doctor has given him a prognosis of 6 months or less to live. And, it means that he has decided that after a long and productive life, he does not want to spend his final days in a hospital intensive care unit.

Hospice is not an order from a doctor but a choice made by a patient. Entering hospice care is not irreversible. Patients can revoke their hospice status at any time and for any reason and occasionally patients leave hospice care because their condition improves.

People often choose hospice care very late in their illness, with most people on hospice for one month or less before they die. The word hospice is scary and many fear that hospice care will hasten death. This is not true, and also unfortunate because hospice can greatly improve the quality of life at the end of life. And some people actually defy the odds and live longer than expected on hospice once aggressive medical treatment has stopped.

Former President Carter is a role model because of his lifelong commitment to public service. By choosing hospice care, he is showing us how to live with dignity in our final days.

Let’s talk about dying.


bottom of page