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Top 10 Myths About Hospice Care

Man searching the internet for hospice faqs

Hospice care is end-of-life care provided to people with a terminal illness who are reaching the end of life. It offers comfort and support to the individual and their family, but there are many misconceptions about hospice care.

Myth #1: Hospice care is only available in specialized facilities

You have many options when it comes to where you receive hospice care. It is not limited to a certain location. While a hospice care facility can be an option, hospice care is primarily provided in a person’s home. It can also be provided in an assisted living community, skilled nursing facility, residential care home, or group home.

Myth #2: Choosing hospice care means you’re giving up

While hospice care is only offered to those who have a life expectancy of six months or less, choosing hospice care does not mean that your life is over. In fact, many people receiving hospice care outlive their estimated life expectancy because of the hospice support they receive. Hospice care can lower anxiety and stress levels and is provided by a specialized care team 24/7 so you always have the help you need. It alleviates many of the difficulties associated with terminal illness and gives you more control over your final moments.

Myth #3: Hospice care is the same as palliative care

While all hospice care is palliative, not all forms of palliative care are hospice care. General palliative care can be provided at any time to patients with a serious illness or debilitating disease. It may be given in conjunction with other treatments aimed at curing the patient and can start from the moment of diagnosis. Hospice care is a specific type of palliative care that may only be chosen when life expectancy is six months to one year. It focuses on relieving pain and providing comfort from the terminal illness.

Myth #4: All hospice providers are alike

You have options when it comes to hospice providers, giving you greater control over the care you receive in the final stages of a terminal illness. Initially, you are likely to be referred to hospice care by your primary care physician or a hospital physician. While the physician may recommend a certain hospice provider, you have the ultimate say about which hospice provider you chose. Since there are many hospice providers, you may want to speak with a few in your area before making a decision. Many individuals also choose a hospice provider based on the previous experiences of family or friends, so it may be good to ask others for input.  

Myth #5: Once you are in hospice care you cannot leave

Hospice care keeps your wishes at the forefront of every decision. You are free to change your mind and leave hospice care at any time, just as you can choose not to access it at all. You have complete control over what you do.

Myth #6: You must sign a DNR order to enter hospice care

A Do-Not-Resuscitate order (DNR) is a legal document which stipulates that you do not give permission for attempts to be made to restart your heart or restore breathing if you suffer cardiac or respiratory arrest. It is one of many legal documents you may choose to include when you put together an advance directive, but it is entirely your choice whether you wish to sign one. It is not a condition of hospice care that you have a DNR – all decisions over your health care are still yours to make.

Myth #7: Hospice care is expensive

Hospice care is actually very affordable. Almost all bills related to hospice care can be covered by your health insurance except for room and board if you are staying at a long-term care facility. Hospice care coverage is offered by Medicare, Medicaid, the Veterans Administration, and private medical insurance.

Myth #8: Only patients with cancer can receive hospice care

A report published in 2018 showed that approximately 70% of patients were admitted to hospice care with a non-cancer primary diagnosis. This means that only 30% of hospice patients had a primary diagnosis of cancer—a sizable proportion, but not a majority. Hospice patients are admitted with a wide range of diagnoses, such as dementia, stroke, heart disease, lung disease, and kidney disease. Hospice medical professionals are trained to support patients suffering from a number of conditions as well as cancer.

Myth #9: Hospice care makes little difference to patients

Although hospice care means you are choosing not to take a curative approach to treatment, hospice care specializes in supporting you to enjoy the remainder of your life with a minimum of stress, pain and discomfort. A study carried out in 2010 demonstrated that patients who chose hospice care lived almost three months longer than those who opted for standard care, and they reported a better quality of life.

Myth #10: Hospice care ends the moment a patient passes

Hospice care encompasses your caregivers and family, supporting them as well as you. Grief support services are often given to family members for up to 12 months after their loved one passes away. Many hospice providers will also help with funeral arrangements and support with other problems that may arise. ■

This material was not created to provide medical advise but to be a helpful resource for hospice education and information. Please contact a local hospice provider near you or a certified physician when seeking any medical advise for you or a family member. Visit www.hospice101.com for more free printable resources and to find a hospice care provider near you.

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