18 Hospice Truths & Misconceptions

18 Hospice Truths & Misconceptions

1. All hospice programs are the same. 

Hospice programs must follow a set of rules and regulations determined by the state, however support services may differ. It is important to find one that offers the right care.

2. Hospice is giving up. 

Hospice care is not giving up. Instead, hospice services are there to provide comfort and improve quality of life and to help carry out the wishes of the patient.

3. Hospice is a place. 

Hospice is a philosophy of care and can be received wherever the patient and their loved ones prefer. This includes at home, in a senior living facility, or in-patient if needed.

4. If you choose hospice, you can’t keep seeing your primary care physician. 

Another common hospice myth is that you can no longer see your PCP (primary care physician). The patient’s current primary care physician may choose to remain their doctor while on hospice care. Most choose to turn the care over to the hospice Medical Director and coordinate with them.

5. Hospice is only for cancer patients. 

Hospice is available for any patient coping with the end-stage of any chronic disease, including kidney failure and Alzheimer’s, and virtually any other life-limiting condition.

6. An immense amount of pain is just a part of dying. It’s unavoidable

While pain often is part of the dying process, hospice care professionals are trained to help manage pain at the end-of-life. Hospice doctors, nurses, and other professionals are able to recognize what stage of the end-of-life process the patient is at, and adjust their care accordingly.

7. Hospice hastens death. 

Obviously, many hospice patients do pass away within hospice care, and this likely explains how this misconception came to be. But the truth is, hospice care does not speed up death. In fact, those who employ hospice care may live longer than those who choose not to use hospice services.

8. Hospice is only used in the very last weeks of life. 

Hospice care can begin when the patient’s physician gives a prognosis of six months or less if the disease follows the expected course. Hospice often provides such comfort and support that many outlive their expected prognosis.

9. Hospice only lasts for six months. 

A patient is referred to hospice care when a doctor’s prognosis is six months or less. However, if the patient lives longer, hospice care can absolutely continue.

10. Hospice care only helps the sick person

Hospice care is very much a comprehensive service for both the ill person and their family members. Spiritual and emotional support is offered for the patient’s loved ones as well as the patient.

11. Hospice administers morphine to speed up death. 

Morphine may be used in small doses to help patients feel more comfortable. It is not used in dosages large enough for patients to hasten death.

12. Hospice means the patient no longer has a say in their care. 

Hospice care is the exact opposite of this myth! Hospice care centers manage the wants and needs of the patient. Care plans are individualized to what the patient wants and needs.

13. Hospice care is not as good as curative treatment. 

The quality of care received while on hospice is just as high as being in a hospital setting; the focus of the care is just different. Hospices are staffed by highly trained medical professionals who are trained to handle crises and around-the-clock needs.

14. Hospice is only useful for administering pain medication. 

Hospice is so much more than just doling out medicine. Hospice care focuses on the whole wellbeing of the patient. This includes spiritual, emotional and physical care.

15. Hospice requires that you give up medication. 

Hospice care is focused on making the patient as comfortable as possible. This means that some patients may choose to give up medications that have heavy side effects, like chemotherapy. However, these decisions are left up to the patient and their loved ones.

16. Hospice patients are sedated so much that they sleep all the time. 

Pain management is the main goal of medications administered by hospice programs. But the dosage amounts start out very low and are only increased if the patient feels more pain. The idea that hospice providers sedate patients is a misconception.

17. Hospice patients must sign a Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) order. 

A signed DNR is not required to receive hospice care.

18. Hospice stops providing food and water to patients so that they die faster. 

Hospice programs will never deny food or drink to any patient. However, it is a natural part of the process that some patients do not feel hungry or thirsty at the end of life. But it is a myth that hospice actively discourages eating and drinking.