Quality end-of-life care isn’t about how you die; it’s about how you live. While more that 1.2 million people were cared for by the nation’s 4,000 hospice programs last year, many myths exist about hospice that deter people from seeking out this compassionate system of care.
Understanding the difference between the myths, and the true facts about hospice and palliative care will help you make a more informed decision about whether hospice is right for you or your loved one. The following information is supplied by the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization.
- Does choosing hospice mean I am giving up?
No. When being cured is no longer possible, hospice provides the type of care most people say they want at the end of life – comfort and quality of life. The most common statement made by families who chose hospice for their loved one is, “We wish we had known about hospice sooner.”
- Can my family and I be involved in making decisions about treatment if I’m on hospice?
Yes. Hospice puts patients and families at the center of care. Trained professionals provide guidance and encourage open, honest communication about individual wishes and choices.
- Is pain always part of the dying process?
No. Hospice doctors, nurses and others are specially trained to control each person’s pain while still keeping the patient awake and alert whenever possible.
- Do I have to leave my home and go to a hospice?
No. Hospice is not a place but a philosophy of care. The majority of hospice care takes place in the home, where the person can be surrounded by family and familiar settings.
- Is hospice only available if I am at home?
No. Hospice and palliative care is available in nursing homes, assisted living facilities, and even hospitals – wherever the patient lives and considers home.
- Does hospice keep patients heavily medicated, focusing only on the physical process of dying?
No. Hospice pain management is highly specialized and tailored to each individual to ensure the highest quality of life possible to live each day. In addition, hospice utilizes other methods for pain and symptom control and provides emotional and spiritual support to the dying person and his or her loved ones, including bereavement support for the family after death.
- If I am on hospice services, does that mean I only have a few days left to live?
No. Hospice care is available to anyone who has a life-threatening or terminal illness, who has a prognosis of six months or less if the illness runs its normal course. Patients can remain in hospice longer than six months if necessary.
- Is hospice care only for older people with cancer?
No. Hospice programs have developed guidelines to care for anyone, at any age, facing a life-threatening or terminal illness.
- Do I need to have private insurance to afford good end-of-life care when I need it most?
No. Hospice is fully covered by Medicare, Medicaid, and most HMOs and insurance companies. Most hospice patients never receive a bill for services.
- Is hospice available in rural areas?
Yes. More than 4,100 hospice programs serve all regions of the United States; less than one percent of Medicare beneficiaries live in an area where hospice is not available.