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Jimmy Carter remains in hospice care after Rosalynn Carter's death: Explaining end-of-life care

The Carter Center confirmed the death of former first lady Rosalynn Carter on Sunday, days after she entered hospice care in the family's Georgia home.

Former President Jimmy Carter entered hospice care in February after a series of short hospital stays, and their grandson, Jason Carter, told ˽ýӳ in September that his grandparents were nearing an end.

Rosalynn Carter, 96, entered hospice care Friday after it was revealed she was diagnosed with dementia in May.

“They are together. They are at home. They're in love, and I don't think anyone gets more than that. I mean, it's a perfect situation for this time in their lives,” Jason Carter said in September.

Here's what to know about the end-of-life care that over 1 million Americans choose each year.

Former President Jimmy Carter and First Lady Rosalynn Carter talk to Habitat For Humanity volunteers and community leaders during a launch party for the Carter Work Project at the Peabody Hotel in Memphis Aug. 21, 2016. The Carter Center announced the death of Rosalynn Carter on Nov. 19, 2023 following a brief stay in hospice care.

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What is hospice care?

After attempts to cure the patient's illness have stopped, hospice care can provide comfort and support in the final stages of life.

Hospice care is designed to maximize comfort and quality of life for the patient as they near their death, according to the National Institutes of Health.

Both patients and loved ones receive support from a hospice team, consisting of a physician, nurses, nurse assistants, social workers, chaplains, and volunteers, said Amy Tucci, president of the Hospice Foundation of America.

Patients do not receive any medical intervention designed to prolong life. But hospice care is not medically assisted death either, for which it's often confused, Tucci added.  

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How long does hospice care usually last?

Hospice care is provided to patients according to the National Institutes of Health's National Institute on Aging.

"Its goal is to help people die pain-free ... with dignity and surrounded by family and friends," Tucci said. "So it's a very special thing." 

Where does hospice care take place?

Hospice care is usually provided at home, which can be defined as a private residence a nursing home, or assisted living facility, Tucci said. The care is also sometimes provided at , according to the Mayo Clinic. 

In , according to research by National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization.

Typical hospice routine:

  • When a patient begins hospice, a hospice team assesses their needs and devises a care plan based on the patient's specific condition. A doctor determines which medications the patient should continue, focusing on pain management. 
  • A primary caregiver, usually a trusted friend or family member, spends the most time administering the patient's care.
  • A common hospice routine might include multiple visits by a nurse and assistants throughout the week to check on the patient's condition and help with bathing and other needs, Tucci said.
  • A social worker helps the patient and family manage any stresses that arise with hospice.
  • Volunteers help patients and caregivers with simple tasks, such as mowing the lawn or taking care of other chores. 
  • A chaplain or other faith-based counselor provides spiritual support.

JJ Hensley contributed to this report

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