Hospice care can often be misunderstood. But contrary to the myths you may have heard, the purpose of hospice is to provide care, comfort and support to both patients and their family members. The focus of hospice is on improving or maintaining the highest quality of life. This is done through a team approach that caters to the physical, emotional and spiritual needs of the patient. Here are some of the more common myths that people have about hospice care.
1. Hospice is giving up.
Hospice services are there to provide comfort and improve the quality of life. One of the things that people have to understand is that everyone goes on the same journey. Just because you decide to use hospice services doesn’t mean that everything is over. Hospice can allow a patient time to engage with their families and live out their final wishes with comfort.
2. Hospice is a place.
Hospice is more of a philosophy of care. Hospice can be provided anywhere that the patient prefers. If they so desire to stay at home, then they can do that. I f they would like to be transferred to a care facility, then they can do that as well. Anywhere the patient goes hospice care can usually follow.
3. If you choose hospice, you can’t keep seeing you primary care physician.
Your Primary Care Physician (PCP) can always remain your doctor. Part of Hospice care means that you now have a team of professionals to take care of you which will include your PCP They will continue to be a part of the conversation going forward.
4. Pain is unavoidable during the dying process.
While pain is usually part of the dying process, hospice professionals are trained to help manage pain through medications, positioning, and . The goal of hospice is to keep the patient as comfortable and pain free as possible.
5. You have to leave your home when you go on hospice.
Hospice does not dictate where care is provided. Only the patient and the family can decide that. If the patient wishes to stay a home, then that is where hospice will go.
6. Hospice hastens death.
This is a really common myth. Hospice’s goals are in pain and symptom management. The patient death is always related to the disease process that they came on to service with. In no way does hospice attempt to speed up the dying process. Hospice does not shorten life nor does it intend to extend it.
7. Hospice is only used in the last few weeks of life.
Hospice services are much more beneficial if the patient can get on service well before the final weeks of life. The sooner a person is brought on to hospice the sooner they can control the effects that come along with the dying process. The longer the hospice team has with a patient the better they can become at controlling pain and other symptoms.
8. Hospice can only last for six months.
Hospice care is usually recommended if a patient is said to have only six months left to live. However, if a patient lives longer than this period, hospice care will absolutely continue.
9. Patients on hospice no longer have a say in their care.
Patients and families have every say in the care. The patients’ needs and desires are the center of hospice’s concerns. Everything revolves around what they wants and needs. Much like any other medical care, if the patient doesn’t want to do something then they don’t have to.
10. Hospice patients are on medications that make them sleep all the time.
Hospice does not attempt to sedate patients. Some medications used to alleviate pain may also make a patient sleepy. However they are never used to force patients into controlled sleeping state. Pain medications usually start out with small doses and increase if they still feel pain. Staff will become better at controlling pain and drowsiness the longer the patient is on service.
11. Hospice patients MUST sign a do not resuscitate order.
This is completely up to the patient and their family. Many families do sign DNRs in order to respect the patient’s wishes. It is never required that a patient sign one though.
12. If a patient does not feels pain, then it must be too early for hospice.
No one should ever have to suffer through pain. That is why it is always better to get patient on to service before their pain is out of control. Hospice can monitor pain and administer medications before pain starts.
13. Hospice care ends when the patient dies.
A hospice care team has multiple disciplines. Doctors, nurses and aids are commonly known services. However social workers and chaplain also work as a part of a hospice team. They can help with support and bereavement up to a whole year after a loved one has passed away.
14. Hospice provides 24 hour care.
While hospice is available 24 hours a day, care is not continuous. Hospice will check on patients and allow patients and families as much privacy as possible. If a patient is needing additional care, visits can be increased.
15. Hospice is only used to administer pain meds.
A hospice team isn’t just there for your physical needs. They also provide spiritual and psycho-social support through chaplain and social workers. This team approach allows families and patients to understanding dying process better.
16. The patient cannot return to regular treatment after being place on hospice.
If for any reason a patient want to return to curative retreatments, they may. There is nothing saying that they have to remain on hospice. Also, if they want, they may return back to hospice care if they ever feel like their treatment is working.
17. Doctors decide when a patient will go on hospice.
Doctors might makes suggestion about when a loved one is appropriate for hospice care. However is always the patient and the family that make the decisions on what is best for them.
18. Doctors decide which hospice the patient will use.
There are many different hospices to choose from. The patient and family always have the final say in care. If a patient ever feels like changing to another hospice they are always allowed to do so.
19. Only doctors can make a referral to hospice.
Anyone can make a referral to hospice, including family members, caregivers, or the patient themselves. Hospice can always provide information about services and it is never mandatory that they sign on to services.
20. Hospice is extremely expensive.
Hospice is covered under the Medicare hospice benefit, along with Medicaid, and most private insurances.
21. Hospice will stop providing food and water to a patient.
Under no circumstance will hospice refuse to give food or water to a patient. During the dying process a patient might feel less inclined to eat or drink. However food and water should always be offered, but not forced.
22. Hospice is assisted suicide.
There is never any intention to harm an individual or attempt to speed up their death. Hospice teams want to allow a patient and family comfort and ease. Any medications or procedure administered are always for the benefit of the patient.