Myth vs. Reality: The Truth About Hospice Care

Friday, August, 31, 2012

There are a number of common misconceptions about hospice that have kept many patients from receiving care that could have greatly improved the quality of their end-of-life experience.

If you have a loved one who is facing a life-limiting illness, here are some common fears about hospice and the facts that you need to know to help ensure they receive the best possible care every step of the way. 

Myth: The day that I call hospice is the day that I give up on my loved one. 

Fact: Probably the most difficult myth to overcome is the common feeling among family caregivers that calling hospice is akin to giving up, to letting your loved one die. But nothing could be further from the truth. In a lot of cases, calling hospice is the best kind of care you can give them at that time. The comfort measures administered by hospice care workers can manage pain and other symptoms very well. Hospice care concentrates on helping a person live well everyday.

Myth: Hospice is a place. 

Fact: Hospice is actually just a form of end-of-life care. While formal care facilities, called hospice in-patient units, do exist, hospice care can come to wherever your loved one is living. Most people who go on hospice die in the place they consider to be home.

Myth: My loved one has to have a specific diagnosis (usually cancer) to go on hospice. 

Fact: Statistics show that the majority of people who go on hospice suffer from some type of chronic illness other than cancer. There are two primary requirements that your loved one must meet to qualify for hospice: they have to have a life-limiting illness in which they are not expected to live longer than six months (this can include cancer as well as things like congestive heart failure, Alzheimer's, and so on), and they have to be done seeking active treatment for that illness.

Myth: Once they go on hospice, my loved one will be forced to stop eating and drinking. 

Fact: Your loved one can continue to eat and drink what they want while they receive hospice care. The one exception to this occurs when a patient is very near the end of their life. When death is close, your loved one may have their food and fluid intake limited, because eating of drinking has become too burdensome on their body and may actually make the dying process more difficult.

Myth: Once they go on hospice, my loved one can't see their primary care doctor anymore. 

Fact: Your loved one's doctor will likely remain very involved in their care, even after they go on hospice. Hospice care teams are generally comprised of many different types of care providers, including the hospice physician, the hospice nurse care manager, a chaplain, social workers and volunteers. Each member plays a different role in caring, but the hospice physician will collaborate with your loved one's primary physician to coordinate their care.

Myth: My loved one died because I called hospice. 

Fact: Because of the intense emotions that surround hospice and end-of-life care, caregivers and close family members may find themselves feeling that their loved one died because hospice was called in. In fact, research indicates that people who go on hospice tend to live slightly longer than those who don't. This is, in part, because the hospice care team takes steps to alleviate the symptoms that are putting so much strain on the patient's failing body.

If you feel your loved one might benefit from our services, contact the HPCIC office nearest you and ask to speak with our intake specialist, who can work with you and the patient's doctor for certification into our program.



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