Hospice: 10 Myths and Facts About End of Life Care

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1. Myth: Hospice is only for people in their last days of life.

Fact: Hospice care is for patients who have been given a terminal diagnosis and have less than six months to live if the illness runs its course, but receiving hospice care doesn't mean that death is imminent. The earlier you receive hospice care, the more opportunity there is to stabilize your medical condition. While some families and patients wait until the final days of life to contact hospice, hospice is available for many months and can make that time more about living well than dying.

2. Myth: Hospice is a place.

Fact: Although some hospice programs do offer a bricks-and-mortar facility, hospice is actually an approach to care that goes to wherever the patient is. Usually, that place is the patients home, but inpatient hospice is also available in a nursing home or an assisted living facility, a veterans care facility, and even the hospital.

3. Myth: Hospice is only for the elderly.

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

4. Myth: Hospice care means giving up hope.

Fact: Receiving hospice care does not mean giving up hope. When given a terminal diagnosis, patients find that hospice services allow them to live life as fully as possible until the end. Hospices interdisciplinary team helps patients and families address their concerns and strengthen their connections so previous issues can be resolved and the end of life is peaceful.

5. Myth: Hospice means nothing else can be done.

Fact: Hospice programs offer the latest in palliative care to alleviate symptoms and improve the quality of life. Each patient and his or her caregivers receive individualized care that meets their unique physical, emotional and spiritual needs. Hospice care focuses on caring, not curing, and neither hastens nor prolongs the dying process.

6. Myth: Hospice means giving up control.

Fact: The hospice team will sit down with the patient and family to create an integrated care plan to address each patients unique needs. The control in almost all instances rests with the patient and the family.

7. Myth: Hospice care is only for the patient.

Fact: Hospice is a family-centered concept of care and focuses as much on the grieving family as on the dying patient. In fact, most hospices make their grief services available to the community via schools, churches and the workplace. Following the death of a loved one, hospice provides continuous support for 13 months with individual counseling, grief support groups, workshops, social groups and literature.

8. Myth: I can't afford hospice care costs.

Fact: Hospice services are covered under Medicare Part A, Medicaid and most private insurances. This benefit covers the hospice teams services, medications, supplies and equipment related to a patient's life-limiting illness. There may be co-pays, co-insurance or a deductible under insurance plans. Hospice staff will work with patients, families, insurance providers and other resources to ensure the patient receives all the benefits available.

9. Myth: Hospice is only for cancer patients.

Fact: Hospice patients don't have to have cancer. More than half of hospice patients nationwide have diagnoses other than cancer. Hospice serves families dealing with the end stages of many chronic diseases, including Alzheimer's, renal disease, HIV/AIDS, pulmonary diseases like COPD and emphysema, cardiovascular and neuromuscular diseases. Its dependent on prognosis, and not about the disease.

10. Myth: If I enter hospice, I'll have to give up my primary doctor and all treatments.

Fact: The hospice team will work closely with your primary doctor or other doctor of choice in developing your care plan. And while hospice does focus on treating symptoms rather than curative medicine, the decision to halt medication is usually left up to the patient. Some patients may decide to stop taking a curative medication if it is causing discomfort.

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