Resources / Visiting Someone on Hospice

Visiting Someone on Hospice

Dr. Andrew Mayo profile image

Dr. Andrew Mayo

Chief Medical Officer


April 17, 2024

Visiting a loved one on hospice care can be difficult. It may involve mixed emotions like sadness, fear, love and reflection. Preparing for these feelings can help you and your loved one feel more comfortable during the visit.  

An individual may be admitted to hospice services when a healthcare provider determines that curative treatment may no longer be an option, or that the side effects of treatment outweigh the benefits. While curative treatments are generally discontinued in hospice care, many comfort-focused treatments can continue. These treatments focus on managing symptoms and improving the patient’s quality of life, rather than curing the underlying condition. 

Visiting a loved one on hospice can mean a lot to them. It gives them support and the chance to be with family and friends at the end of life. 

Preparing for Visits

Individuals can prepare for a hospice visit by understanding their loved one’s condition, communicating with caregivers about any specific preferences and mentally preparing for the emotional aspects of a visit. Hospice patients and people with terminal illnesses often undergo changes in appearance, including weight loss or gain, blotchy or discolored skin, etc. It is helpful to prepare visitors for a visible change before they visit their loved one. 

A visitor may also want to ensure a smooth visit by: 

  • Coordinate visit times based on the patient’s hospice schedule.
  • If a loved on is in a facility, visits may want to ask about visitation hours and how many people are allowed to visit at one time.
  • Bringing food or treats that meet dietary guidelines.
  • Providing small activities such as a puzzles, a favorite show, music or other activities that will not exert too much energy from your loved one.

To prepare children or other loved ones for a visit, you may want to educate your visitors on what hospice means, the illness affecting your loved one and how to be respectful during the visit.  

During the Visit

Some hospice patients may be confined to their bed or asleep during your visit. Other times, hospice patients may be alert and awake. During your visit, you may want to periodically check in with your loved one to see what they may like to do during the visit or how long they would like to keep the visit.  

What to Say During a Hospice Visit

Starting or continuing a conversation with a loved one on hospice can feel daunting. It is important to acknowledge this difficulty and recognize that it is okay to feel uncertain about what to say.  

Tips for what to say to someone on hospice:

  • Keep the Focus on the Patient. During your visit, prioritize the needs and preferences of your loved one on hospice.  
  • Start by Asking How They Are: Begin the conversation by asking your loved one how they are doing. The simple question can help guide the direction of the conversation. 
  • Share Enjoyable Memories: Recall and share positive memories that you and the patient have shared. This can bring comfort to both the visitor and the patient. 
  • Express Support: Use supportive phrases to show your care and concern. For example, you can say “I may not have the right words, but I want you to know that I’m here for you, and I truly care about you.” This can provide comfort and reassurance to your loved one. 
  • Embrace Silence: Understand that silence is okay during a hospice visit. Allow moments of quiet reflection and let your loved one take the lead in the conversation, if able. 

What Not to Say During a Hospice Visit

Some statements could unintentionally offend or undermine your loved one’s situation. You may want to avoid certain phrases, such as: 

  • Making false promises: “Everything will be fine” or “You will feel better soon.” 
  • Refrain from discussing future events or plans they may not be able to participate in. 
  • Avoid bringing up end-of-life conversations unless the patient wants to discuss.

Other phrases to avoid could be:

  • “You are so brave.” 
  • “I understand what you are going through” or “I can’t imagine what you are going through.” 
  • “My friend is going through the same situation.” 
  • “I will miss you.”

After the Visit

Even when you cannot be there in person, you can still stay connected with your loved one. Sending photos, letters, calls and messages to your loved ones can bridge the gap during your time away.  Our InTouch program is our commitment to helping patients and their families experience the hospice journey together, even when they are apart. Staying connected provides support, reassurance and peace of mind when it is needed the most. 

Visiting a loved one on hospice is incredibly meaningful. It can provide comfort and connection during a difficult time and help both patients and their loved one’s process feelings. St. Croix Hospice is there when you need us most to support patients and families. We can offer guidance on how to prepare for visits, provide resources to help answer your questions and help process what you are feeling.

Are children allowed to come to hospice visits?

Most of the time, children should be included once they are properly prepared for the visit. Have a conversation with your children ahead of time so they know what to expect. 

What if I am not able to visit in person?

If appropriate for your loved one, a video call or phone call can replace a regular visit. 

Should I visit an acquaintance or non-family member in hospice?

If you feel you have a significant place in each other’s lives, it is likely appropriate to visit. If in doubt, ask your loved one on hospice if they would like a visit. Checking in with their immediate family may also help determine if a visit is feasible.