Hospice – Dispelling the Myths

Hospice – Dispelling the Myths

Healthcare Notebook 2023 www.allaboutseniors.org/read-online
Hospice & Palliative Care Hospice: Dispelling the Myths

By Tara Connolly, Vice President Business Development; Hospice & Palliative Care Charlotte Region

Despite continual growth in awareness and access, so- ciety still harbors many myths about hospice and the care it provides. These misconceptions contribute to the underuti- lization of hospice services. This is unfortunate because many patients with life-limiting illnesses could benefit from the expert pain and symptom control, as well as the emo- tional, social, and spiritual support that Hospice & Palliative Care Charlotte Region (HPCCR) provides. Learn the truth behind ten common hospice myths that contribute to the stigma surrounding this form of end-of-life care.

Myth #1: Hospice is a place.

Fact: Hospice is a philosophy of care that focuses on com- fort rather than a cure. It is about making the most of each day and enjoying the best quality of life possible. HPCCR provides care wherever our patients call home, whether it’s their own home, a group home, assisted living facility or long-term care facility. Some hospice programs offer inpatient hospice care in a hospice house for people whose pain or other symptoms cannot be managed in their home.

Myth #2: Hospice is for when there is no hope or when “nothing else can be done.”

Fact: Hospice is the “something else that can be done” for the patient and their family when their illness cannot be cured. Hospice is not an end to treatment – it is a shift to comfort-oriented treatment that is focused on helping the patient live his or her life to the fullest. In addition to man aging the pain symptoms, HPCCR provides extensive counseling and social service support to address the emotional and spiritual aspects of coping with a terminal illness.

Myth #3: Hospice is only for people with cancer.

Fact: While about half those receiving hospice care are can- cer patients, the other half suffer from illnesses including heart disease, lung disease, dementia, CVAs/strokes, HIV/ AIDS, debility, and neuromuscular diseases, among others. Hospice care is appropriate for anyone diagnosed with any terminal illness with a life expectancy of 6 months or less.

Myth #4: Hospice care is expensive.

Fact: Hospice is a fully funded Medicare/Medicaid benefit, unlimited in length, and is covered by most private insurance companies. Most plans cover hospice care, medications, supplies and equipment related to the hospice diagnosis with no out of pocket expense to the patient.

Myth #5: All hospices are the same.

Fact: While all hospices must follow the same Medicare rules and regulations, how they interpret them can be very different. This can result in very different levels of care.

Each hospice is an independent entity and there are over 4300 hospices operating in the United States. They may be non-profit or for-profit; they may be independent or part of another organization such as a hospital or health system. It is important to understand the differences amongst provid- ers in your area to make the best choice.

Myth #6: Hospice will only treat symptoms related to the terminal diagnosis.

Fact: Hospice specializes in palliative care – that is, care de- signed to provide comfort. Providing that comfort requires treating illnesses unrelated to their terminal illness. Illnesses or injuries like UTIs, pneumonia, and broken bones always receive appropriate attention.

Myth #7: Therapies such as blood transfusions and radiation automatically exclude a patient from hospice.

Fact: Many therapies that once prohibited a patient from obtaining hospice services are now considered on a case- by-case basis. These therapies must be utilized for palliative purposes only, and not as an attempt to “cure” the illness. This can vary widely depending on the provider. If you have questions, reach out to your local hospice and discuss your situation.

Myth #8: Patients must sign a Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) prior to an admission to hospice.

Fact: Although the majority of hospice patients choose to sign a DNR prior to entering hospice care, it is not required for admission. If a patient or family makes the decision to sign a DNR, the document may be signed at any time.

Myth #9: I need to wait for my doctor to bring up hospice.

Fact: While it is the physician’s responsibility to determine whether a patient meets the medical eligibility criteria to receive hospice services, the patient (or caregiver) can initiate the discussion. Since hospices consistently hear from their patients/families that they wish they had received hospice care sooner, it is a good idea to let the physician know at the time of diagnosis with any life-limiting illness that you are open to discussing hospice care at the appropriate time. Patients and families can also contact a hospice directly to learn more about their services.

Myth #10: Once I choose hospice, I lose my relationship with my doctor.

Fact: The patient’s physician is a vital member of the HP- CCR care team. We encourage your family physician to re- main engaged in your care since often they will know you better (medically) than anyone else and can help best deter- mine how to address your specific medical needs.