Hospice Myths & Misconceptions

There are many myths and misconceptions when it comes to exploring and understanding hospice care. Here is some clarity:

Hospice is a place.
Hospice care often takes place in the home or in a place that is currently home, such as an assisted living community, skilled nursing facility or long-term care center. There are, however, hospice care centers around the country.

Hospice is expensive.
Hospice relieves the burden of medical bills because it’s covered by Medicare and most insurance carriers. Once a patient chooses hospice care, almost all bills related to the care of the patient’s terminal illness diagnosis are paid for by their health insurance, except for room and board at a long-term care facility. Medicare is the largest insurer of medical care provided at the end of life, but hospice care also is covered by Medicaid, the Veterans Administration (VA) and private medical insurance.

Hospice means death is imminent.
Hospice patients are those who have been diagnosed by a doctor as having six months or less left to live, but hospice is not a death sentence. In fact, it can add life back to your days. Statistically those who opt for hospice when curative measures are no longer an option, end up living 30-40 days longer. Patients can also outlive their projected life expectancy and continue receiving hospice care.

Hospice care is only for people who have given up on life.
It is a common misconception that hospice is about dying when, it is designed to help terminally ill patients live their final days to their fullest. The National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization (NHPCO) considers hospice care, the model for quality and compassionate care for people face a life limiting illness. It provides medical care and pain management as well as emotional and spiritual support tailored to the patient’s needs and desires. The ultimate goal of hospice is to increase the patient’s quality of life and provide support for family members and caregivers to ensure the patients final days are as comfortable and pain free as possible.

Hospice is painful.
Hospice care provides comfort rather than a cure. It decreases anxiety and stress levels and gives access to a dedicated care team 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It provides a way for patients to experience a pain-free death.

Hospice and palliative care are the same thing.
The terms “hospice care” and “palliative care” are often used interchangeably but they are not the same. Hospice is only one type of palliative care that can be utilized in the last six months of life. Traditionally, palliative care can be utilized anytime during the course of a debilitating disease or serious illness and, ideally, should begin at the time of diagnosis.

Once you enter hospice care, you can never go back.
Hospice care is not a death sentence, it is simply a comprehensive service offered to patients with life limiting illnesses for whom a cure is unlikely or impossible. Patients have the right to leave hospice care at any time. If the patient’s condition improves, they may choose to pursue curative treatment again. The option to reapply for hospice always remains open. Another common misconception about hospice care is that you must sign a do-not-resuscitate (DNR) order upon entering hospice. A DNR is one of several legal documents patients often choose to include when creating an advanced healthcare directive but is by no means a requirement of hospice. The goal of hospice is to provide comfort and support for the patient in whatever form they choose.

Entering hospice care means giving up control over your care.
Hospice care is intended to increase quality of life for terminally ill patients, so it cannot be forced on anyone. This form of care is administered by a team of professionals (interdisciplinary team) specially trained to provide care and support to meet the patient’s medical, physical, emotional and spiritual needs, so the treatment varies patient to patient, on a case-by-case basis. Hospice continues medications that manage and control the symptoms and pain of the diagnosis. The patient always has the right to request or refuse hospice services.

All hospice providers are the same.
None of us has a choice when it comes to death and the end of life, however everyone should have a choice about the care they receive through the end of life’s journey. A journey that should be dedicated to enhancing the quality of life during the final months and days, so that the patient, family and caregivers are surrounded with the support of the interdisciplinary team so that the patient experiences dignity, peacefulness and a pain free death. Hospice care is meant to provide the best quality of care for terminally ill patients, however not all hospices are created alike.