By Executive Director, Marlene von Friederichs-Fitzwater

“Hospice” care was initially defined as “a lodging for pilgrims or the destitute normally provided by a monastic order” or as “a lodging for travelers or the underprivileged especially when maintained by a religious order.” Hospice care originated in Europe during the medieval period of time.

Dame Cicely Saunders of St. Christopher’s, London is considered the founder of hospice care. Florence Wald, Dean of the Yale School of Nursing, founded the United States hospice movement by opening the first hospice in the county in New Haven, CT in 1974. In 1984, the International Hospice Institute was started.

Change Through the Years

Modern day hospice care is concerned with the effective relief of pain and symptoms and giving the patient the opportunity to know about his/her illness and what happens at end of life. Furthermore, patients are able to get funeral arrangements and wills in order, do legacy work, say goodbyes to friends and family members, and spend his/her time the way he/she wants.

While hospice care was initially provided in hospital wings and in hospice facilities, this type of care in the United States gradually moved into patient homes with family/friend caregivers and hospice teams that come into the homes weekly (or as needed) to provide medical hospice care. Hospice care is a type of health care that focuses on the palliation of a terminally ill patient’s pain and symptoms and attending to their emotional and spiritual needs at the end of life. Hospice care prioritizes comfort and quality of life by reducing pain and suffering. Hospice care provides an alternative to therapies focused on life-prolonging measures that may be arduous, likely to cause more symptoms, or are not aligned with a person’s goals. 

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Key Ingredients

Compassion and gentleness are valued tools in the care of a hospice patient by hospice staff who are nurturing and supportive and not afraid to draw close to offer death with dignity and respect for the unique choices of a dying patient and their family.

Sadly, the homeless men and women in our community who are terminally ill do not have hospice care as an option. They most often die, alone and in pain, on our streets and along our rivers. Joshua’s House Hospice will provide a supportive, loving alternative and as the first such facility on the West Coast, it will also be a model for other communities. We thank everyone who has so generously supported our effort to get Joshua’s House Hospice open in the spring of 2021 and welcome everyone to “Be a Hero for the Homeless!”


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