As our parents and other family members get older, many of us will play an important role in caring for them. When a loved one has months rather than years to live, hospice care is often the best choice, and can help family members remain in their homes – which is where most people say they prefer to be – while receiving care that manages symptoms of their serious illness.
Unfortunately, there are still many myths and misunderstandings about hospice, and these can prevent people from getting the quality of care they deserve. Hospice of the Western Reserve, a nonprofit organization that has served our community for more than 35 years, provides this list of some of the most common myths about hospice care along with the actual facts to help families make informed decisions about their care.
How many of these facts are a surprise to you?
Myth: Hospice care is expensive.
Fact: Hospice care is paid for by Medicare, Medicaid and most commercial insurances. Once a diagnosis is given and a patient is determined eligible for hospice care, the hospice benefit can be elected. The hospice benefit pays for all medical care, medications and appropriate treatments that will provide comfort and alleviate symptoms related to the diagnosis.
Myth: Hospice is for the last days of life.
Fact: Most people wait too long. Once it is determined that life expectancy is months rather than years, hospice is available. To fully benefit from hospice, patients and caregivers should seek care early.
Myth: The only outcome is a certain death.
Fact: Some patients improve with hospice’s supportive care and services to the point that hospice is no longer suitable. They may leave the hospice program but can be re-admitted later if necessary.
Myth: Hospice means giving up hope.
Fact: Hospice provides hope by enhancing the quality of a person’s life when they have a terminal illness and a cure is no longer an option. The hospice team is made up of healthcare specialists who are experts in managing pain, shortness of breath and other symptoms of chronic disease to allow your loved one make the most of the time they have left. Hope includes more time with family and friends, being as comfortable as possible and setting realistic goals for the future. Hospice care also extends to you, as the caregiver of your loved one, providing 24/7 phone support from medical professionals, spiritual and emotional support, help with companionship, household needs, errands and more from trained volunteers.
Myth: Hospice is only for cancer patients.
Fact: Hospice is available to anyone with a serious illness, regardless of age or diagnosis. Care is provided to meet the needs of those with heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, kidney disease, COPD, Parkinson’s and any other terminal illness.
Myth: I cannot receive curative treatments while receiving hospice.
Fact: Patients are free to leave the hospice program to seek curative treatments, and
may return to hospice care once they have completed these treatments.
Myth: I can’t keep my own doctor.
Fact: While receiving hospice care patients can keep their doctors.
Myth: Only a doctor can refer to a hospice program.
Fact: Anyone can make a referral.
Myth: Hospice is a place.
Fact: Hospice is a philosophy of care. While Hospice of the Western Reserve does have three hospice houses, most hospice care is provided wherever the individual lives, whether that’s in their own home or apartment, a nursing home, or in a retirement or assisted living community.
Hospice of the Western Reserve is available to help. For more information, visit, www.hospicewr.org, or call the organization’s referral line at 1.800.707.8921.