Hospice Myths and Facts

Myth: Hospice means giving up hope.
Fact: Hospice does not mean “giving up hope”, but can help people revise what they may hope for. Hospice focuses on maximising the quality of life based on individual’s choices, so that the person may live life as fully as possible for as long as possible. Hospice is about living life as fully as possible. In fact, patients and families receive the greatest benefit when hospice care is started early.

Myth: Hospice is a place.
Fact: Hospice care usually takes place in the home, but can be provided in any environment in which you may call home, including nursing homes and assisted living facilities.

Myth: Hospice means that the patient will soon die.
Fact: Receiving hospice care does not mean giving up hope or that death is imminent. The earlier an individual receives hospice care, the more opportunity there is to stabilise the medical condition and address other needs. While hospice care is focused on patients where life expectancy is six months or less, some individuals actually improve and may be discharged from hospice care. They can then be re-admitted later when it is necessary.

Myth: Hospice is only for elderly individuals.
Fact: Hospice care is for individuals of all ages facing a life-threatening illness.

Myth: Hospice is only for cancer patients.
Fact: Hospice care is available to all terminally ill individuals and their families, regardless of diagnosis. Some of the most common non-cancer diagnoses are congestive heart failure, Alzheimer’s, chronic lung disease or other conditions.

Myth: Individuals have to give up their own doctor.
Fact: Individuals may keep their own physician, who will work closely with the hospice team of healthcare professionals, including physicians, nurses, pharmacists, and medical social workers to plan and carry out care.

Myth: Individuals can only receive hospice care for six months; therefore enrolment should be delayed as long as possible.
Fact: Hospice patients can stay on hospice care as long as medically necessary while the disease takes its normal course. Medicare, Medicaid and most private insurance pays for hospice care as long as the individual meets the medical criteria, which may result in receiving hospice care longer than six months. Some individuals actually improve and may be discharged from hospice care. They can re-enroll in hospice care when necessary.

Myth: Hospice provides 24 hour care.
Fact: Hospice care is based upon intermittent visits but is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for support and care. Hospice can help the family arrange 24 hour care by a private duty agency if necessary.

Myth: Families have to pay for hospice care.
Fact: Hospice care is covered by Medicare, Medicaid and most private insurances.  Hospice care, including medications, medical supplies, and all durable medical equipment related to the hospice diagnosis, is a Medicare benefit.

Myth: Hospice gives the patient so much medicine that the patient is out of touch, sleeps too much and becomes addicted to pain medication.
Fact: One of the goals of hospice care is to make the patient comfortable, pain free and as alert as possible.

Myth: Hospice stops feeding patients and they become dehydrated and starve to death.
Fact: Hospice encourages patients to eat and drink only what they want. It is natural for some patients to not feel hunger or thirst. This is part of the dying process as the body shuts down.

Myth: Hospice uses morphine which causes the patient to die sooner.
Fact: Hospice uses morphine and other pain medications to keep the patient comfortable. It does not cause death.

Myth: Hospice is just for the patient.
Fact: Hospice provides comfort care to patients, as well as respite and emotional support to family members. The quality of life – not only for the patient, but also family members and others who are caregivers – is the highest priority. Bereavement support is offered for thirteen months following the death of a loved one.

Article written by Kelly Petty
Clinical Liaison
Compassionate Hospice Care

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