Hospice and palliative care | Western Cape Government

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Hospice and palliative care

hospice careLiving with a serious or terminal illness can be a very difficult time for the patient and their loved ones. Our hospice and palliative care services are available to you and your family to help ease the symptoms and make you and your loved ones as comfortable as possible.

To help you and your family make the best decision for care, it's important to know which treatment options are avialable to you and when.

What is the difference between hospice and palliative care?

Hospice care is similar to palliative care, but there are important differences. 

1. The objective of both hospice and palliative care is pain and symptom relief.

2. The prognosis and goals of care tend to be different.

  • Hospice offers comfort care without seeking to cure the root cause of the illness. The patient no longer has treatment options or has chosen not to pursue treatment because the side effects outweigh the benefits.
  • Palliative care is comfort care with or without an intent to cure the illness involved. It focuses on providing relief from the symptoms and stress caused by the illness. The goal is to improve quality of life for both the patient and the family.

Who qualifies?

Any person, of any age, who has a life-limiting condition, qualifies for palliative care. This includes many different types of illnesses, and is provided for patients as well as their families.

Should you or a loved one be accepted onto a hospice programme, you and the hospice team will develop a tailor-made plan of care together. The care and support of the hospice team will help you and your family deal with the challenges of living with a life-limiting condition.

 The main things hospice can help with are:

  • pain and symptom control,
  • psycho-social support and advice,
  • spiritual support,
  • emotional support,
  • bereavement support, and
  • equipment (for example wheelchairs).

How to join a hospice programme

Anyone may refer a patient to hospice - a friend, neighbour, family member or even the patient themselves. The hospice nurses will then visit you at your home to do an assessment to see if you’re in need of palliative care. Hospice care

You can, however, also be admitted if you have a direct referral from a health care professional (a doctor or a nurse). 

7 Benefits of palliative care

  • Professional care and treatment of pain and symptoms.
  • Helping you have more control over your care by improving your understanding of the treatment options.
  • Improves communication between you, your family, and health care providers.
  • Improves the quality of care you receive, while also reducing cost.
  • Helps to reduce or eliminate lengthy hospital visits.
  • Allows you to remain comfortable at home.
  • Allows you to stay in touch with your family and friends. 

Types of care

1. Hospice

Hospice care is provided in 3 main ways:

  • Hospice home based care

Mobile teams of professionally supervised trained community caregivers travel to your home and support and teach your family and friends how to care for you at home. Not only is this cost effective, but it also allows you to be at home where you’ll be more comfortable.

  • Hospice community centres

Many hospices work from established centres within the community. At these centres they’ll meet with groups of people who have palliative care needs. Doctors, nurses, social workers and other professionals will attend the centres regularly to assist those with individual needs. At many of these centres, a variety of skills are also taught and income generating projects initiated.

  • Hospice in-patient units

Some hospices have in-patient units that provide 24 hour palliative care. You can be admitted to an in-patient unit if:

  • you have pain that’s difficult to control at home,  
  • your family needs help, or
  • if you don’t have family or friends that can support you at home. Hospice care

2. Care for children

Palliative care for children and young people has many similarities to palliative care for adults, and the World Health Organisation's (WHO) defines palliative care appropriate for children and their families under the following conditions:

  • Palliative care for children is the active total care of the child's body, mind and spirit, and also involves giving support to the family.
  • It begins when the illness is diagnosed, and continues regardless of whether or not a child receives treatment directed at the disease.
  • Health providers must evaluate and alleviate a child's physical, psychological, and social distress.
  • Effective palliative care requires a broad multi-disciplinary approach that includes the family and makes use of available community resources; it can be successfully implemented even if resources are limited.
  • It can be provided in tertiary care facilities, in community health centres and even in children's homes.

To find out more, please go to: www.patchsa.org or read more about the wonderful work of the Iris House hospice in the Western Cape.

3. Bereavement

Bereavement support is a very important part of palliative care. After a patient has passed away, the hospice team grieves with the family and friends. They’ll continue to provide support to the loved ones until such time as the support is no longer needed.

Find a hospice near you

Find a hospice near you

You can consult the interactive map of hospices in the Western Cape, or the detailed hospice list for contact details and more information.


eHospice brings together the expertise and experience of the global hospice and palliative care community, and helps reduce the isolation felt by many people receiving or providing end of life care. The Hospice Palliative Care Association of South Africa (HPCA) forms part of this initiative.

Watch this short 2-minute video to learn more about their work:

More information

You can contact the HPCA at:

Tel: +27(0)21 531-0277

Fax: +27(0)21 531-1706

Email: info@hpca.co.za

Or read more about the World Hospice and Palliative Care Day Toolkit.

The content on this page was last updated on 17 November 2017