When There Are No Other Choices, Hospice Can Help

When There Are No Other Choices, Hospice Can Help

Senior and clinician holding hands

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.


  3. 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.


  4. 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.


  5. 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.


  6. 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.


  7. 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.


  8. 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).


  9. 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.


  10. 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.


  11. 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.

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.