Despite the growth of hospice awareness, myths about hospice still are prevalent in our culture.
These misconceptions contribute too many patients and families not receiving the 180 day hospice benefit allowed under Medicare. Far too often, patients come on a hospice program for only a few weeks, days or even hours. This is unfortunate, since so many patients who are in need of expert pain and symptom control, as well as emotional, social, and spiritual support, does not receive them.
Patients and family caregivers rely on physicians to help them fully understand what is likely to happen when facing a life-limiting illness and how best to plan, but only 1 in 10 people who need end of life palliative currently receiving it.
“They deserve honesty, compassion, and the time to say good-bye and hospice can help make this happen,” says J. Donald Schumacher, President and CEO of the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization.
Hospice care includes addressing the physical, psycho social, spiritual and emotional suffering of patients with serious advanced illnesses and supporting family members providing care to a loved one. About one-third of those needing palliative care suffer from cancer. Others have progressive illnesses affecting their heart, lung, liver, kidney, brain, or chronic, life-threatening diseases including HIV and drug-resistant tuberculosis.
Myth: Hospice is only for people with cancer.
Fact: Though many patients do have cancer, hospice serves terminally ill people of all ages, with all types of progressive diseases. These include heart, lung, kidney, vascular, and neurological diseases, as well as AIDS and Alzheimer’s.
Myth: Hospice is only for people who only have a few days to live.
Fact: Hospice can be provided when a cure is no longer possible and it is believed a patient has six months or less to live. Unfortunately, many people enter the program too late to fully benefit from many services available to them and their families.
Myth: Hospice requires a DNR to receive services.
Fact: Hospice does not require a Do Not Resuscitate order (DNR) for patients to receive hospice care. While many patients on hospice elect to have a DNR in place, it is not the right choice for everyone. The goal of Hospice is patient comfort with the patient directing care.
Myth: Hospice means giving up hope.
Fact: The truth is, Hospice is about approaching life with hope,spending time and focusing energy on life’s most important issues and the people we love.
Myth: Hospice is a place.
Fact: Hospice is a philosophy of care, not a place. Patients can receive Hospice care wherever they live – usually in their homes, but also in nursing homes and adult care facilities.
Myth: Once a patient comes to hospice they can no longer receive care from their primary care physician.
Fact: Hospice works closely with primary physicians and considers the patient-physician relationship to be of the highest priority.
Myth: Only a physician can make a referral for a patient to receive hospice car.
Fact: It is the patients right and decision to determine when Hospice is appropriate. A patient, family member or friend can call hospice to make a referral.