What is “Comfort Care”?

Inquiries have been coming in to the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization asking for an explanation of what is included in Comfort Care.

FILE PHOTO – Former U.S. first lady Barbara Bush listens to her son, President George W. Bush, as he speaks at an event on social security reform in Orlando, Florida, March 18, 2005. REUTERS/Jason Reed

It has been widely reported in a statement from the Bush family that former First Lady Barbara Bush has decided to forgo further hospitalizations and curative-focused medical treatments and has chosen to receive comfort care. Questions have come in to NHPCO asking for further details about what makes up comfort care.

Comfort Care refers to care plan for the patient that is focused on symptom control, pain relief, and quality of life. Often support is provided to family members to help them understand the care plan and to address needs and concerns they might have.

There are different forms of comfort care. Two of the best known are hospice and palliative care.

Under hospice care, a person receives medical care as well as emotional, psycho-social, and spiritual care delivered by an Interdisciplinary team of professionals that includes a physician, nurse, social worker, allied therapists, counselors, home health aides, spiritual and grief support and trained volunteers. Each person’s care plan would be tailored to his or her specific needs with some patients requiring services that others might not need.

Palliative care means patient and family-centered care that optimizes quality of life by anticipating, preventing, and treating suffering. Palliative care throughout the continuum of illness involves addressing physical, intellectual, emotional, social, and spiritual needs and to facilitate patient autonomy, access to information, and choice.

“Under the philosophy of hospice and palliative care, the goal is care and not cure,” said Edo Banach, President and CEO of NHPCO. “The same principles would apply to comfort care.”

Under the Medicare hospice benefit, a person must have a prognosis of six months or less within the doctor’s best estimation; however, hospice can be provided for as long as the patient needs it and is not limited to six months. Palliative care provides care and services without the required six month prognosis and can be provided alongside curative or life-prolonging treatment.

Hospice care serves people coping with cancer, dementia, heart disease, COPD, renal disease and other illnesses. The majority of hospice care is provided in the home, yet hospice care also is provided in nursing homes, assisted living facilities, and in-patient settings.

Comfort care would reflect the principles of hospice and palliative care, specifically designed to meet the needs of the individual patient and family caregivers. Hospice care provides the most comprehensive array of covered services.

In the U.S., hospice organizations are the primary providers of community-based palliative care and comfort care services.

“If a family is struggling with a serious or life-limiting illness, it is never too early to reach out to your local hospice and ask about care they offer and if it might be right for a loved one,” Banach said.

While more than 1.5 million patients avail themselves of hospice care every year, nearly 30 percent of Medicare beneficiaries received care for seven days or less, which hospice professionals consider too short a time to fully take advantage of all that hospice offers.

“One of the biggest misconceptions about hospice is that it’s giving up,” said Lori Bishop, NHPCO Vice President of Palliative and Advanced Care. “Hospice provides high-quality care and support to the whole person and to family caregivers with the goal of quality of life.”

“It seems appropriate to share this information on April 16, National Healthcare Decisions Day, a day of national outreach to raise awareness of the importance of talking about one’s health care wishes and taking steps to share those preferences,” noted Banach.

Learn more about hospice and palliative care at NHPCO’s Caringinfo.org.




Jon Radulovic

Vice President, Communications

Ph: 703-837-3139


NHPCO is the oldest and largest nonprofit leadership organization representing hospice and palliative care programs and professionals in the United States. NHPCO’s mission is to lead and mobilize social change for improved care at the end of life.

NHPCO Applauds Introduction of Opioid Disposal Bill

On February 15th, U.S. Representative Tim Walberg (MI-07) introduced H.R. 5041, the Safe Disposal of Unused Medication Act, in response to America’s opioid crisis.  Representatives Debbie Dingell (MI-12) and Richard Hudson (NC-08) joined Rep. Walberg as original cosponsors of the bill. This legislation would help prevent the misuse or diversion of unused medications by equipping hospice professionals with the legal authority to safely dispose of unused drugs after a hospice patient’s death.

In a press release, Rep. Walberg stated “Many patients receiving hospice care need painkillers to help with end-of-life pain, but any leftover medication can unfortunately end up in the wrong hands.”  The hospice community is actively working toward avoiding drug diversion and this bill is a common-sense approach that will help curtail the opioid problem.  NHPCO supports this bill, appreciates Congressman Walberg’s leadership, and looks forward to working with him in the future. Stay tuned for a one-page brief on this legislation and information on how you can help.

Upcoming Opportunities to Meet your Members of Congress

Check out the latest list of upcoming townhalls, constituent coffees, and tele-town halls. These are great opportunities to meet and talk to your Members of Congress, introduce your programs, and give them some information about hospice and palliative care in their district:


01/26/2018 8:00am – 9:00am Rep. David Young (R-IA-003) Coffee with Congressman Des Moines IA
01/26/2018 11:00am – 12:00pm Rep. David Young (R-IA-003) Coffee with Congressman Milo IA
01/26/2018 9:30am Rep. Matthew Cartwright (D-PA-017) Coffee with your Congressman Scranton PA
01/26/2018 9:00am – 10:00am Rep. Tom Rice (R-SC-007) Coffee with your Congressman Myrtle Beach SC
01/27/2018 9:30am Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-AZ-007) Coffee with your Congressman Phoenix AZ
01/27/2018 10:00am – 11:00am Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA-014) Town Hall Meeting Pacifica CA
01/27/2018 10:00am – 11:00am Rep. David Young (R-IA-003) Coffee with Congressman Bridgewater IA
01/27/2018 1:00pm – 2:00pm Rep. David Young (R-IA-003) Coffee with Congressman Winterset IA
01/31/2018 11:30am -12:30pm Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA) Constituent Coffee Washington DC
02/01/2018 7:00pm – 8:00pm Rep. Betty McCollum (D-MN-004) Town Hall Meeting North Saint Paul MN
02/01/2018 6:30pm – 8:00pm Rep. Adriano Espaillat (D-NY-013) State of the District New York NY
02/01/2018 8:30am – 9:30am Sen. Robert P. Casey (D-PA) Coffee with Senator Casey Washington DC
02/09/2018 7:00pm Sen. Bernard Sanders (I-VT) Town Hall Meeting Burlington VT
02/12/2018 6:30pm – 8:00pm Rep. Mark DeSaulnier (D-CA-011) Town Hall Meeting Pleasant Hill CA
02/13/2018 7:00pm – 8:00pm Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-CO-007) Tele Town Hall Meeting Not Available Not Available
02/15/2018 6:00pm Rep. Drew Ferguson (R-GA-003) Tele Town Hall Meeting Not Available Not Available
02/15/2018 8:30am Sen. Robert P. Casey (D-PA) Coffee with Senator Casey Washington DC
03/26/2018 7:00pm Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-CO-007) Tele Town Hall Meeting Not Available Not Available

New Podcast: Hospice Nursing Services

Hospice nursing services made it on the CMS list of deficiencies again in 2016 and is one of the common questions Jennifer receives from the field. Hear Jennifer and Jon R. discuss the basics of nursing supervision. NHPCO President and CEO also joins us for a discussion on the organization in 2018 and an exciting upcoming partnership.

We thank the sponsor of episode 31:  Accreditation Commission for Health Care. Inc. Visit the ACHC website to download the Distinction in Palliative Care standards document.

Quick Links to Resources Mentioned in this Podcast:

NHPCO Welcomes Alex Azar as HHS Secretary

Hospice and palliative care community look forward to supporting Azar’s efforts on behalf of patient-centered, holistic care.

(Alexandria, Va) – The National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization (NHPCO) congratulates Alex Azar on his Senate confirmation as United States Secretary of Health and Human Services this week.

“The appointment of Alex Azar puts a seasoned leader at the helm of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and NHPCO looks forward to working collaboratively with Secretary Azar and his staff to ensure that all Americans have access to person-centered, family-oriented, interdisciplinary care – something that has been a hallmark of hospice care for four decades,” said Edo Banach, NHPCO president and CEO.

Secretary Azar’s experience with hospice, referenced in his nomination hearing before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee on Nov. 29 of last year, will prove an invaluable asset as he leads the department whose mission is to enhance and protect the well-being of all Americans. The hospice and palliative care community appreciate his understanding of quality care during this important period and looks forward to working to advance efforts to ensure all people receive the right care at the right time.

“Given the hospice and palliative care community’s collective experience of providing interdisciplinary, person-centered care, we firmly believe that we can work with HHS to help address issues facing health care delivery and point to solutions from our experience, said Banach.

Learn more about National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization at nhpco.org.  Consumer information on hospice and palliative care is available at NHPCO’s Caringinfo.org.