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Debunking 10 Common Myths About Hospice

Hands of an old woman and a young man close up.


Nearly 1.5 million Medicare beneficiaries received hospice care in 2017, a 4.5% increase from the prior year. For patients with a life-limiting illness or condition and their families, hospice care offers many important benefits.

Unfortunately, there are many misconceptions and myths about hospice regarding what it is and who it helps. These misconceptions can keep patients and their families from seeking care that can alleviate pain and enhance their quality of life.

When it comes to hospice care, separating hospice myths and facts is the best way to determine whether it might be an option for you or a loved one.

Myth #1: Hospice is for people who have given up on life.

Hospice is designed to help patients with a life-limiting condition live their final months, weeks, and days to the fullest. It provides medical care and pain management as well as emotional and spiritual support tailored to the patient’s needs and desires. Studies show that patients who choose hospice often live longer and experience a better quality of life than those who pursue aggressive end-of-life medical care.

Myth #2: My family can’t afford hospice.

This is one of the top misconceptions of hospice care, and it leads to patients not receiving the care they deserve. Hospice is a fully funded Medicare/Medicaid benefit, unlimited in length. It is also covered by many private insurance companies cover hospice care, medications, and equipment related to the hospice diagnoses with no out-of-pocket expense to the patient. Hospice care includes visits from nurses and other health care professionals, social services, certain therapies, and spiritual counseling. The U.S. Department of Veteran’s Affairs also covers hospice care for veterans.

Myth #3: Once you choose hospice, there is no turning back.

Patients can revoke hospice participation at any time, for any reason, without penalty. Their medical condition may improve, or a patient may decide to pursue curative treatment again. Patients can reapply for hospice benefits at a later time if they so choose.

Myth #4: Hospice hastens death.

The goal of hospice is to enhance the quality of the patient’s life in their final months, weeks, and days. Research shows that many patients who choose hospice actually live longer than patients who do not receive hospice care.

Myth #5: You must sign a do-not-resuscitate (DNR) order to receive hospice care.

A DNR is a legal document that some patients choose to incorporate in their advanced healthcare directive. But it is by no means a requirement to receive hospice care. The purpose of hospice is to provide comfort and support for the patient in whatever manner they choose.

Myth #6: Hospice is a place.

Hospice is not a place, but rather a philosophy of care that focuses on pain and symptom management. Many patients choose to receive at-home health services in the comfort and familiarity of their own house, though it can also be administered in a hospital, nursing home, or assisted living facility..

Myth #7: Hospice is only for cancer patients.

Unequivocally, no. Hospice care is for anyone with a life-limiting illness and prognosis of six months or less. Patients with dementia, heart disease, ALS, Parkinson’s disease, diabetes, kidney disease, and more can all benefit from hospice care.

Myth #8: Hospice and palliative care are the same.

Although both palliative and hospice care focus on alleviating suffering and enhancing the quality of life for patients and their loved ones, hospice care is intended for patients who have a life-limiting condition and are no longer pursuing curative treatment. Palliative care is available when the patient is diagnosed, it and it may be administered while the patient undergoes treatment. To get a better idea of what is palliative care, read our article with the Director of the Palliative Care Program for more details.

Myth #9: Hospice care is only for people with a few days or weeks to live.

A 2018 report by the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization (NHCPO) shows that Medicare patients received hospice services for 76 days, on average. Generally, hospice is intended for individuals with a life expectancy of six months or less, but every patient is different. Earlier admissions to hospice care mean the patient experiences better pain and symptom control, as well as an improved quality of life. Still, choosing hospice is a deeply personal and complex decision, and we believe the patient and their loved ones will make the decision that is best for them when the time is right.

Myth #10: You can’t keep your own doctor when you start receiving hospice care.

We encourage your physician to remain engaged in your care. In fact, the Intrepid USA Hospice Care Team will work closely with your doctor to develop your plan of care.

So, there you have it. 10 myths about hospice that are now debunked. We hope this blog has helped you learn more about hospice and if it’s the best plan of care for you or a loved one.

If you are interested in learning more about hospice, we encourage you to visit the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization’s website. If you have questions about Intrepid USA Hospice, please contact us here.

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