Myths and Facts about Hospice

Lack of information, misunderstandings, and fear keep many people from taking advantage of end-of-life care. Below are some common myths, and the facts, about hospice care.

Myth: You call hospice when there is nothing more a doctor can do.

Fact: There is so much that health care professionals can do to maintain comfort, dignity, and quality of life once hospice has been called. While the goals of treatment shift from finding a cure to finding peace, there is still a great deal that can be done.

Hospice is a philosophy of care designed for patients with a life-limiting illness. Hospice professionals receive training to assist patients in living their lives fully and completely, while managing their pain and symptoms until the end of their lives.

Myth: To be eligible for hospice, I have to be in the final stages of dying.

Fact: To be eligible for hospice, a physician must certify that you might have six months or less to live, should your condition progress as expected. Although hospice is intended as a six-month Medicare or insurance benefit, the length of care may be less or more, depending on the patient’s condition. Patients and families often benefit the most when they receive the support and guidance hospice provides for weeks or months; hospice makes the greatest difference when patients are enrolled early. In fact, many family members have shared with us that they wish they had called us sooner. When families turn their attention to their loved one’s quality of life, they can stop worrying about making it to medical appointments and focus on making memories. The team of hospice professionals helps make the individual more comfortable while also helping loved ones prepare for their loss.

Myth: Quality care at the end of life is very expensive.

Fact: Medicare beneficiaries pay little or nothing for hospice. For those ineligible for Medicare, most insurance plans, HMOs, and managed care plans cover hospice care. In some cases, charity care may also be an option.

Myth: If I choose hospice care, I have to leave my home.

Fact: Hospice is not a place; it is a service that can be provided wherever the patient may be–in their own home or a family member’s, a nursing home, or an assisted living facility. Hospice is also provided in inpatient units, VA hospitals, and some correctional facilities.

Myth: Hospice care is only for cancer.

Fact: The majority (more than 60 percent) of hospice patients are diagnosed with conditions other than cancer.

Myth: Hospice is just for the elderly.

Fact: Hospice is for anyone facing a life-limiting illness, regardless of age.

Myth: After the patient’s death, hospice care ends.

Fact: Bereavement services and grief support are available to family members for 13 months after the death of a patient.

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