Myths, Facts and FAQs

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MYTH:  Hospice care is limited only to patients with terminal cancer

Hospice care is for anyone with a life expectancy prognosis of six months or less. Hospice patients may have cancer, heart disease, lung disease, neurological diseases, dementia, or any other life limiting illness that has reached a terminal stage.

MYTH:  Hospice is a place

Hospice is not necessarily a place, but actually a philosophy of care. The focus is on holistic comfort care and no longer on curative measures. Hospice care meets people where they are, both physically and emotionally, and is provided to a patient and family wherever they call home. Whether this is in a personal home, a skilled nursing or assisted living facility, or other residence; hospice services are provided where the patient is most comfortable. In addition to “home” care, some hospice providers have Hospice In-Patient Care Centers or Hospice Houses. These facilities are available for acute pain and symptom management and can also be utilized for respite care.

MYTH:  Hospice care hastens death and causes one to die faster

Hospice care does not delay nor prolong death. Death occurs naturally, and on a patient’s own terms, but in greater comfort than without hospice care. The focus of care is keeping a patient comfortable and allowing them to live out their final days with dignity and without pain. Hospice is designed to support both patients and families and allow them to live out their time to the fullest.

MYTH:  Hospice care is only needed in the last few days of life

The sooner hospice care is utilized the more support it can provide. In fact, according to a study published in the Journal of Pain and Symptom Management, hospice patients were found to live an average of 29 days longer than non-hospice patients. Hospice care often improves quality of life thus prolonging life in some cases. Hospice care is available to anyone who has a prognosis of six months or less.

MYTH:  Hospice care is limited to 6 months

Hospice care will continue as long as a patient meets ongoing criteria to receive services. Because of the specialized nature of hospice care, some patients live more than six months and some “graduate” from hospice care and can be re-admitted at a later time. There is no limit to the number of days or months that a person can receive hospice care.

MYTH:  Hospice care is funded by donations only and not covered by insurance

Hospice care is fully covered under Medicare, Medicaid and most private insurance policies. Donations and community support are a very important piece of the overall funding of hospice care as they allow community-based providers to provide care to anyone in need, regardless of their insurance or financial situation.

MYTH:  Hospice care does not allow a patient or family member to make decisions about my care

Hospice care does the opposite. Patients and their families are at the center of their care. Patients and families have the ability to direct their care through individualized care plans and goals.

MYTH:  All Hospice providers are part of a large, nation-wide organization and operate pretty much the same

While most every hospice is Medicare certified and follow the same Medicare guidelines of care, all hospices are independent of each other and have unique philosophies of care. Medicare guidelines provide “high level” direction regarding care, which are interpreted by each individual provider. Decisions around the levels of care, and the services offered are determined by each individual provider and the care from one provider to the next can look very different.