Common Hospice Myths Debunked

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Hospice myths debunked
Published:  January 30, 2023

Hospice care can be a profound benefit for patients with life-limiting conditions and their loved ones, and it is an important part of end-of-life planning. However, there are many myths surrounding hospice care that may prevent people from taking advantage of this form of care. Read on to learn more about hospice care — and the truth about hospice myths.

Common Hospice Myths

Myth: Hospice Means the Patient Has Given Up

One of the most common and persistent myths surrounding hospice care is that it means that a patient has given up hope. While a decision to enroll in hospice care typically is made after an individual decides to stop treatment for their condition, it does not mean that a person has lost or given up hope. Instead, it means that the patient has reached a place of peace and acceptance and that he or she wants to make the most of the life that remains.

When a person is diagnosed with a life-limiting condition, they understand that their time may be limited. If treatment for the condition is no longer a viable option, hospice care can help patients live as fully and comfortably as possible in their final months of life. This type of care and support can assist patients in dealing with feelings of sadness, anger, and pain, and allow them to focus on celebrating their remaining time with family and friends. Hospice care also allows patients a measure of control over their lives, as they can choose how they will spend their time. Most patients do not view this as giving up, but as coming to peace with their prognosis and deciding to live the best possible life for the time that remains.

Myth: “Hospice” Is a Place

While inpatient hospice facilities exist in some areas, most of the hospice care takes place in a home, assisted living facility, or residential care facility. Hospice is not a place, but a method of comprehensive care provided to patients with a life-limiting condition who have chosen to cease treatment to focus on comfort and quality of life.

Myth: Hospice Care Is Only for Cancer Patients

While hospice care is provided to patients who have been diagnosed with cancer and are no longer seeking treatment, it is also available to patients with other life-limiting conditions as well. Patients with end-stage heart conditions, lung disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and other health conditions may be eligible for hospice care if they have been given a life expectancy of six months or less.

Myth: Hospice Care Is Only for the Elderly

Hospice care is often associated with the elderly; however, these services are not limited to a certain age range. Hospice care is available to persons of any age who are diagnosed with a life-limiting condition and meet the qualifications for care.

Myth: Hospice Care Is Only for the Patient

While the decision to enroll in hospice care should be made by the patient, hospice care services are not offered exclusively for the benefit of the patient. Hospice care provides support for family and friends as they help care for their loved one and offers much-needed respite for caregivers who are often overwhelmed by the needs of the patient. Emphasizing the quality of life for both the patient and caregivers is a priority for hospice care providers. Many hospice care programs also offer bereavement services for family and friends following the passing of a loved one.

Myth: Hospice Care Is Unaffordable

While the cost of hospice care varies, most patients with private insurance, Medicare, or Medicaid will have coverage for hospice care services if they have a life-limiting condition. Patients with Medicare usually pay very little or nothing for hospice services. Uninsured and underinsured patients may be eligible for special programs, such as grants, to cover the cost of care.

Myth: Hospice Care Means Giving Up Medical Treatment

Hospice care emphasizes the comfort and well-being of the patient. While enrolling in hospice care is associated with ending curative treatment for a life-limiting condition, it does not mean that a patient foregoes all medical care. The patient will continue to receive treatment for pain and other symptoms, to enhance their quality of life. Individuals in hospice care also have the option to leave hospice care at any time to return to treatment for their life-limiting condition. They can then return to hospice care at a future date if they continue to meet the requirements of hospice care at that time.

Myth: Hospice Care Will Not Allow the Use of a Preferred Provider

Hospice care providers value the relationship patients have with their primary care providers and will work with the patient and their treating healthcare provider to continue that relationship. This may involve coordinating in-home or office visits for care or consulting directly with the healthcare provider as part of the hospice care team.

Myth: Hospice Care Is a Decision Made for a Patient

Unless a patient is incapable of making a decision regarding their healthcare treatment and has a medical power of attorney in place, the decision to enroll in hospice care is theirs to make. While a healthcare provider may recommend hospice care, it is up to the patient to make the ultimate decision to enroll in care, including when to enroll and which hospice provider to choose.

A healthcare provider must certify that a patient has a life-limiting condition, as well as a life expectancy of six months or less; however, the choice to enroll in hospice belongs to the patient. Similarly, although a caregiver or loved one may suggest that a patient enrolls in hospice care, the decision must ultimately be made by the patient unless he or she lacks the mental capacity to make such a choice.

Myth: Hospice Involves Around-The-Clock Care

Most hospice care providers offer a team of support, including doctors, nurses, social workers, chaplains, bereavement counselors, and home health aides. These professionals are available to patients around-the-clock, but they are not necessarily staffed at a patient’s home or care facility twenty-four hours a day. Instead, the team will schedule regular visits and address needs as they arise.

Myth: Hospice Care Means a Patient’s End of Life is Near

While hospice care is only available to patients with life-limiting conditions and a life expectancy of six months or less, this does not mean that everyone who enters hospice care will die shortly thereafter. A patient who enters hospice care may stabilize during care, particularly if needs that were previously unmanaged are addressed through hospice. It is also important to remember that a prognosis is not always certain, and some hospice care patients are able to leave services if their condition improves. A patient may enroll in hospice care only to improve and be discharged from care. This same patient may later re-enroll in hospice care if necessary. Most insurance companies and programs, including Medicare, will cover hospice care services for as long as the patient continues to meet the criteria, and a physician certifies that the patient has a limited life expectancy of six months or less.

Myth: All Hospice Care Programs Are the Same

Each state has certain licensing requirements for hospice care providers. However, beyond meeting these basic standards, hospice care providers vary widely in terms of services offered, quality of services, and philosophy of care. Hospice programs can operate on a for-profit or nonprofit basis and may be affiliated with a religious institution. It is important to thoroughly research hospice care options to ensure that the care provided meets the specific needs required. A physician or other healthcare provider may be able to provide recommendations regarding area providers.

Choosing the Right Hospice Care Program

When it comes to choosing a hospice care provider, look to one that meets a full range of needs, providing comprehensive services to help patients live the fullest possible life in the time that remains. At Traditions Health, our providers emphasize dignity and quality of life for all patients. We offer a variety of services for our patients and their loved ones during what is often a difficult time. Contact us today to learn more about how our hospice services may benefit you and your loved one.

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