Former President Jimmy Carter is currently being served by hospice. Following several health disparities over the years, Carter, age 98, reportedly opted to utilize hospice for added comfort. Even after overcoming unimaginable setbacks like cancer and a fall, he’s decided to use hospice to prepare for the end of his incredible life’s work.
Hospice is a hard concept for many. Most of us never want to hear the words, “We recommend hospice.” That is a tough sentence to write much less hear, but what hospice can do, is offer peace of mind for both patients and families when end-of-life care is necessary.
Much of what folks think about hospice is incorrect. Did you know some patients have been in hospice for YEARS? This is not a frequent occurrence, but it does happen. Let’s dispel some myths about hospice:
- Hospice is giving up: While hospice does not provide curative treatment to improve someone’s terminal condition, what it CAN provide is comfort for the patient and their family during their remaining time together. Hospice offers a team of support including a medical director, skilled nursing support, a social worker, a hospice aide, and a chaplain. Hospice also offers volunteers to provide non-medical support based on someone’s wishes and interests.
- Hospice is a place that provides 24-hour care: Hospice services can be provided in any setting that you or your loved one call “Home.” Hospice care can be received in private homes, assisted living or memory care communities, or in a skilled nursing facility. While hospice isn’t 24-hour support, there is increased support available that can be explored based on your preferences and needs.
- Hospice is only there for pain control: Hospice focuses on the well-being of the whole patient spiritually, physically, and mentally. Patients can receive from hospice what works for them.
- Hospice care is only for the last 3 weeks of life: While a terminal condition with a prognosis of 6 months or less is needed to enroll, there have been patients who received hospice services for months to years before they passed away. If you qualify for hospice, timely enrollment can allow your team to get to know you, while you’re still you. Hospice services can also be extended as long as you medically qualify.
- Hospice care is only for the patient: Hospice is like a wraparound service, and not only does the person in need the most receive direct services and support, but their loved ones are also able to receive support for a full 13 months after they pass away.
- Pain is an inevitable part of the dying process: Pain can be a part of the dying process, but with hospice services, the goal is to minimize the pain and maximize comfort. Comfort measures can be provided medically, and/or through the support of a chaplain or volunteer. Hospice volunteers can offer services such as reading, singing, playing music, offering massage, or simply running errands to calm your mind.
- People pass away more quickly in hospice: The majority of people receiving hospice care do pass away, but the care provided by hospice does not speed the process along. Hospice can occasionally even delay passing due to the increased level of support and comfort that it can provide.
- Hospice is only for those who are diagnosed with cancer: Hospice can be ordered by a medical doctor for anyone with a qualifying and terminal diagnosis (life expectancy of 6 months or less).
- Hospice care takes away your voice: While receiving hospice care, patients are still advocates for their individualized healthcare decisions. When timely enrollment is considered, hospice patients can state their needs and wishes to ensure their wishes are honored during their journey.
- Once you’re enrolled in hospice, you cannot disenroll in hospice: Anyone can disenroll in hospice at any time if they choose to seek treatment options for their condition, or for any reason. On rare occasions, some hospice patients have also had an improvement in their health and have been medically discharged from hospice.
- Hospice patients must sign a “Do Not Resuscitate” or “DNR” Order: A DNR is not required.
If you or a loved one is faced with the difficulty of end-of-life decision-making, and you’d like to discuss hospice support, please reach out to us at Info@CaringEdge.com.