Causeless Mercy (#44)
Vaisnavas C.A.R.E. -- ISKCON's Hospice Project
(Vaisnavas C.A.R.E. = Counseling, Assistance, Resource, and Education
for the Terminally ill and Their Families)

The following excerpt on the history of the hospice movement is taken from The Final Journey -- Complete Hospice Care for Departing Vaisnavas (Torchlight Publishing).

In medieval times, weary travelers on their way to or from the holy land on religious pilgrimage, found rest, food, and comfort at monasteries along the way. Because the journey was often long and harsh, many travelers became ill and spent their final days at these shelters that were eventually known as hospices. The word "hospice" is derived from the Latin work, "hospitium," meaning a guesthouse. At these safe havens, under the care of benevolent strangers, many of them monks and nuns, these weak and dying pilgrims found refuge. Much later in 1879, the Irish Sisters of Charity opened hospices in Dublin and then in London in 1905. They believed that death was one stage of a longer journey.

Over time, this concept was all but lost until a reawakening occurred in the 1960's when Dr. Cicely Saunders, a British physician, founded the modern hospice movement. At St. Christopher's Hospice near London, Dr. Saunders developed a model for hospice care. She is credited with starting the first program to use modern pain management for compassionate care of the dying. She also taught that the dying patient and family should be treated holistically, caring also for their emotional, mental, and spiritual needs. Dr. Saunder's contributions to the modern hospice movement are unparallel.

In the United states, the National Hospice Organization was formed in 1979. In 1983, Congress passed the Medicare Hospice Benefit. It was not until 1988 that the International Hospice Institute helped form the Academy of Hospice Physicians.

At present, there are over 3,000 hospice programs in the United States alone. Some provide an inpatient unit, usually in a wing of a hospital or in a long-term care facility, which offers symptom management in acute situations, short-term respite for the caregivers when needed, and 24-hour nursing care when homecare is not possible.

But, hospice is not a place. Most hospice care occurs in the home. It is an ideal achieved through a team approach for the care and comfort of the terminally ill. Generally, this team consists of a physician who is knowledgeable in pain and other symptom management, a hospice nurse trained in holistic care, a nurse's aide who assists with bathing, skin care and other comfort measures, a pastor or other spiritual counselor, a social worker, bereavement counselor, and volunteers who visit the patient in the home. The caregiver, who is usually a family member or close friend, is an integral part of the team. The professional members of the team educate, encourage, and support the patient, family members, and caregivers. Each member of the team should compliment the other. Together, they assist in improving the final days of the patient and provide emotional and spiritual support for his or her loved ones.

Vaisnavas C.A.R.E. Inc. (V-C.A.R.E.)

Vaisnavas C.A.R.E. integrates the knowledge of caring for the terminally-ill with the spiritual wisdom given to us by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. Vaisnavas C.A.R.E. Inc. (aka V-C.A.R.E.) is a non-profit organization that is dedicated to providing Counseling, Assistance, Resources, and Education for the terminally-ill and their loved ones. Educational seminars for volunteer caregivers as well as healthcare professionals are provided for those interested in becoming part of this mission. A free, online course is included in our website ( that can give one a basic understanding of caring for the terminally-ill and their family. We also offer an online Bereavement Support Discussion Group, a Prayer Request Page with Prayer Partners around the world, a Transcendental Nectar Page and lectures, a monthly online newsletter, and a monthly Health and Well-Being Page with tips to keep you physically and emotionally healthy throughout life. Other helpful information can be found throughout our site as well.

We welcome everyone to visit our website at to become familiar with the many services we offer.

Your servants at Vaisnavas CARE,

Sangita devi dasi
Jusaniya dasi
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