As many of you know, I spend a good portion of my time talking with people about Hospice services. In addition to medical professionals, I speak to a number of community organizations, as well. The comments and questions at these presentations always have a similar theme. The general public still does not have a good concept of what hospice is and when it should be utilized. The misconceptions about hospice are just as great as they have always been. My goal is to help shed light on these misconceptions and then debunk the myths. Below are some of the most common myths.
Myth #1: Hospice Means Giving Up
Many people mistakenly believe that patients who choose hospice have given up hope. The truth is that patients who choose hospice have chosen to redefine their hope. Where a patient once hoped for a cure, he or she might now hope to focus on living the rest of their days surrounded by the ones they love, doing the things they enjoy doing. The primary focus is quality of days, not the number of them. Goals may be revised to attend a special event, go on one more trip, or simply to live at home instead of being cared for in a nursing home.
gives hope back to patients and families when faced with overwhelming circumstances.
Myth #2: Hospice is ONLY for Patients who are Actively Dying or Close to Death
Hospice best serves patients and families when it is started as soon as patients are no longer seeking curative treatment, or when treatment side effects outweigh treatment benefits. The misconception that hospice is only for patients who are close to death is largely due to patients waiting too long to come into the hospice program, or continue being treated until they are actively dying. When this happens, hospice programs are left to perform crisis intervention. Patients have the best outcomes when the hospice program has time to form trusted relationships and assist patients and families with the emotional and spiritual needs necessary to feel at peace with the anticipated loss. It makes these events less stressful, and often less expensive.
Myth #3: Hospice Hastens Death
Although death is the expected outcome for all patients with a life-limiting illness, the truth is that hospice care does not hasten a person’s death. In fact, most individuals who employ hospice services live longer than those in the same circumstances who do not choose hospice. Hospice philosophy is to respect life and, therefore, is legally and ethically opposed to any form of euthanasia.
Myth #4: It’s Up to my Doctor to Decide When I Am Ready For Hospice
Although it is true that a physician must write an order for hospice services to begin, the patient or family can ask for a hospice referral. Sometimes communication between patients and physicians get bogged down. Don’t wait for the physician to bring up hospice.
Myth #5: I Have to Use Whichever Hospice My Doctor or Healthcare Professional Recommends
Although all core hospice services are mandated by Medicare and Medicaid, how these services are provided, the expertise, and quality of the programs may differ greatly. Some programs offer additional support and assistance to patients and families. Do your research. All hospices are required to submit satisfaction surveys to Medicare. Compare hospices of interest on