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Top 10 Myths About Hospice and Palliative Care

There are many myths about hospice that keep people from getting this specialized and compassionate care when they need it most.

Myth: Hospice is a place.

Reality: Hospice can be provided wherever the person is residing: Home, Nursing Home, Assisted Living Community, Hospital or Hospice Unit.  Hospice is a philosophy of care providing medical, emotional, and spiritual care focusing on comfort and quality of life.

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

Reality: Medicare beneficiaries pay little or nothing for hospice – and most insurance plans, HMOs, and managed care plans include hospice coverage.

Myth: Hospice is only for the last few days of life.

Reality: Hospice patients and families can receive care for six months or longer, depending upon the course of the illness.

Myth: Choosing hospice means giving up.

Reality: Hospice focuses on living… living as fully as possibly up until the end of life.  We aggressively manage symptoms such as pain.  With hospice care, the focus changes from trying to cure the underlying disease to treating the symptoms caused by the disease so that the patient is comfortable.

Myth: Hospice requires switching doctors.

Reality: The primary doctor can continue to follow and be involved in the patient’s care.  Hospice has physicians available to assist the primary physician in the care of the patient.

Myth: Hospice is only for cancer patients.

Reality: Hospice services are available for anyone who has a life-limiting illness.  People who suffer from heart disease, dementia, stroke, lung disease, liver failure, and renal failure may be eligible.  Fifty percent of hospice patients have illnesses other than cancer.

Myth: Hospice is the same thing as home health.

Reality: Home health’s focus is rehabilitative, and hospice’s focus is comfort care.  Hospice provides volunteers, chaplains (spiritual care counselors), and up to 13 months of bereavement services.  Home health does not provide these services.

Myth: Hospice doesn’t provide much.

Reality: Besides our most important asset – our staff, hospice also provides medications, equipment (such as oxygen), and supplies related to symptom management of the terminal illness.

Myth: There’s no hospice in my area.

Reality: Less than one percent of Medicare beneficiaries live in an area where hospice is not available.

Myth: Hospice only helps the patient.

Reality: Hospice provides support to the patient, family and caregivers.  Up to 13 months of bereavement services such as telephone calls, cards, and memorial services are available to loved ones.

From the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization and Odyssey HealthCare