Hospice Mythbusters – Fact vs. Fiction

In honor of November being Hospice and Palliative Care Month, we liked to dedicate this blog to talking about hospice. To us, life is a celebration. We encourage people to continue to live well, live fully and to live as if each day is a gift. To us, hospice is about supporting people who are facing advanced illness by helping them to continue living with love, joy and hope.

Myths about what hospice is or how it works can be detrimental to its success. So we hope by busting a few of these myths, we can help provide a better understanding of what hospice really is – a kind and compassionate philosophy of care designed to relieve suffering and to support the celebration of each individual life. Hospice and palliative care is not just for the end-of-life. It is a holistic approach that includes caregiver support, spiritual care, bereavement and much more.

MYTH #1 – Hospice is this place where people go to die – to give up hope.

Fact: Quite the opposite. Hospice is not a place. It is a special kind of healthcare focused on keeping the patient comfortable once the patient and physician have decided that the underlying disease can no longer be treated or cured. Hospice care can occur in a variety of settings. It neither hastens nor postpones death and is focused on the belief that quality of life is as important as length of life. Hospice care can be provided at home, a nursing home or in an assisted living facility. It is not a specific place, but an ideal, a philosophy, a mission carried out by many capable, dedicated hands. It is hope. Hope that each life can end in the arms of compassion, dignity and peace.

MYTH #2 – Hospice is just for the patient.

Fact: While service to the patient is a large part of what hospice provides, it is so much more that that. Hospice care not only provides for physical needs, it also provides for the psychological needs of patients. But it doesn’t stop there. Hospice provides a wealth of services for those all-important family members and friends who we call caregivers. The role of a caregiver is selfless and often times they need support too. So hospice care supports them by giving them knowledge, spiritual guidance, breaks from caregiving and sometimes just extra hands to make their caregiving more meaningful and easier.

MYTH #3 – All hospice programs are the same.

Fact: Not all hospice organizations are the same. While they are required to provide certain services, they all have their own business models just like any other business. Some operate for a profit and some don’t. They develop their own mission statements and conduct their business based on their state’s particular set of laws.

MYTH #4 – Once on hospice care, a patient can no longer receive traditional care.

Fact: Each patient’s plan of care is individualized to his or her particular circumstances by their primary care physician and their hospice care team. Patients sometimes go in and out of hospice based on their needs. They can return to traditional care if needed. If hospice care is required again, all they need to do is re-enroll.

MYTH #5 – Patients can only get hospice for six month.

Fact: Medicare benefits and some private insurance companies base the need for hospice on a certain set of criteria. Within that criteria, it speaks of the prognosis for life expectancy being six months or less. This does not mean the care is automatically discontinued should the patient live beyond this timeframe.

MYTH #6 – Hospice can only be provided in the patient’s home.

Fact: Hospice services can be provided wherever the patient lives. In many cases, the patient decides they want to be at home. In other instances, such as with dementia patients, it is best for all concerned if care takes place in a nursing home or assisted living facility of some sort. This decision is up to the patient and their family members.

MYTH #7 – Patients are no longer under the care of their own doctor after signing on with a hospice organization.

Fact: Hospice organizations work in concert with primary care physicians to determine the best care plan for patients and to maintain that plan should changes be required.

MYTH #8 – Hospice is expensive.

Fact: Medicare and some private insurance companies pay for all or part of hospice care. Hospice organizations, whether they are profit-based or non-profit, usually have financial aid services. Generally, care is given to all regardless of the ability to pay.

MYTH #9 – Family and friends are not involved in hospice care.

Fact: Having family and friends involved in the care of a loved one makes for a very rich and meaningful experience for all. These dedicated caregivers are welcomed openly and are a big part of why hospice care works so well. Hospice provides them with the training and support they need in order to be effective caregivers.

MYTH#10 – Hospice only starts when a person is bedridden and stops after death.

Fact: Hospice is about enhancing quality of life. Many patients are able to live happy, productive lives outside of the confines of a bed. They are encouraged to celebrate life in any way they are capable of doing so, focusing on living to the best of their ability. Hospice bereavement teams help those left behind long after their loved one has passed. These services include support groups and individual counseling sometimes as long as a year after death occurs.

These are probably just a sampling of the myths that surround hospice care. If you have additional questions or concerns, please contact a hospice team member to get all the answers you need.

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