World Hospice and Palliative Care Day

Written by Karen Mueller, PT, DPT, PhD, Chair of the Hospice and Palliative Care Special Interest Group, APTA Oncology Section

With the approach of World Hospice and Palliative Care Day on October 11, it is the perfect time to recognize the important role physical activity can play for this often-underserved population, and to note the wealth of information that is available online.

Studies of patients who are in hospice care suggest that desire to maintain a level of activity does not diminish at the end of life. In fact, most of these patients state that the ability to walk, sit up, and function independently in the bathroom are of great importance to their quality of life.

To promote the value of activity in patients at the end of life, the American Physical Therapy Association Hospice and Palliative Care Special Interest Group (APTA HPC-SIG) was formed in 2008. It provides the public with information and emerging research findings that support the value of activity. APTA HPC-SIG represents more than 60 physical therapists (PTs) practicing in hospice and palliative care settings that include hospitals, home health, and assisted living centers. These PTs promote the value of activity through community and professional-group presentations, published research, and web-based education.

The APTA HPC -SIG website offers members’ insights, as well as links to organizations with the same goals, including the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization and the Center to Advance Palliative Care.

Jake, a 60-year-old rancher with terminal brain tumor, was a poignant example of the desire to remain active.  He wanted to be able to walk to his dining room table for a final Thanksgiving with his family. After a few physical therapy sessions involving gait training with a walker, Jake achieved this important goal, and died peacefully 3 days later.


The baby boomer generation is a vigorous population whose desire for physical activity is not likely to diminish at the end of life. There never has been a better time to promote activity throughout the lifespan. APTA HPC-SIG is proud to help lead this effort, which can mitigate health care costs while improving quality of life.