Not ready for hospice: characteristics of patients in a pre-hospice program

Am J Hosp Palliat Care. 2001 Nov-Dec;18(6):377-82. doi: 10.1177/104990910101800606.


Context: There are many patients with terminal illness for whom hospice care would be appropriate, but they either never enroll or enroll very late. In a pre-hospice program designed to help patients make the transition into hospice, we observed that many patients did not make the transition.

Objectives: To understand more about the transition to hospice and the functions of a pre-hospice program, this paper compares patients who enrolled in hospice with those who died in the pre-hospice program.

Design, setting, and patients: Data were collected from a retrospective review of the charts of 123 consecutive patients who enrolled in a prehospice program between January 1, 1995, and December 31, 1996.

Main outcome measures: The patient's decision to transfer to home hospice or (perhaps, by not making a decision) to remain enrolled in the pre-hospice program until death.

Results: At the end of the research period, 38 patients had transferred to hospice and 36 had died without transfer. The remaining 49 patients had uncertain outcomes at the end of the research period. Patients who transferred to hospice were older (P = .02) and more likely to have secondary insurance (P = .05). In addition, those who enrolled in hospice were more likely to live alone (P = .03) and have psychosocial concerns noted by staff on admission (P = .05).

Conclusions: Many patients died in this program that was designed only for transition to hospice. We found statistically significant differences characterizing the groups associated with transferring to hospice. Further studies to find out why these differences exist will be important in order to provide excellent end-of-life care for more people.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological*
  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Decision Making*
  • Denial, Psychological
  • Female
  • Hospice Care / organization & administration*
  • Hospice Care / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Illinois
  • Insurance, Health / statistics & numerical data
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Patient Acceptance of Health Care / psychology*
  • Patient Acceptance of Health Care / statistics & numerical data
  • Patient Selection*
  • Patient Transfer* / statistics & numerical data
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Social Support