Historically, the word ‘hospice’ meant a place of care, but in much of Canada it has now come to describe a program of care. In British Columbia, we use the terms hospice and palliative care interchangeably.

27 BC
In the eastern parts of the Roman Empire, there were houses that offered a place of refuge for the needy-not only to the sick and dying-but also to the hungry wayfarer, the woman in labour, orphans and the poor. These sanctuaries became known as hospitium, from which the modern terms hospital, hospice, hostel and hotel are derived.
476 AD
Soon hospices were to be found along pilgrim routes as well as at mountain passes and river crossings where travelers met great hazards, gradually local people also came to rely on these houses. This tradition of hospice care continued into medieval times under religious orders such as the Benedictines, who were charged with care for the needy.
18th & 19th Century
Later, the running of hospices began to be secularized and there gradually emerged medical care provided by professional physicians within the institution of the hospital. The development of the modern hospital however led to medical care that distanced itself from the notion of a hospice, death was not seen as a state of being, but rather as a failure to affect a cure. Thus, care of the dying and especially of the terminally ill was not a focus of medical care even though the means to alleviate distressing symptoms had greatly improved.
20th Century
In the early part of the 20th century modern hospice-style care for the terminally ill was provided mainly by religious houses. Not until the 1950’s did hospice palliative care receive new impetus when Cicily Saunders, a physician with a deep concern for the inability of her fellow physicians to care for the dying, established St. Christopher’s Hospice in London.
Hospice today aims to reduce any pain or suffering experienced by the dying as well as their caregivers and loved ones. This process can be as religious or as secular as the client wishes with the focus being on comfort rather than a cure. At the Terrace Regional Hospice Network, we are committed to offering the best services possible to the sectors that need help the most and we aim to change and grow as the field of hospice continues to evolve.