Exposing 5 Myths about Hospice Care

older women laughing together

Hospice care is an end-of-life benefit that might be available to you or a loved one. However, some people might be confused about hospice care. And there are a lot of myths about what it is and what it isn’t.

The National Institute of Aging notes that, “Hospice is provided for a person with a terminal illness whose doctor believes he or she has 6 months or less to live if the illness runs its natural course.” Over 1.4 million people got hospice care in 2016  according to the NHPCO. And a recent clinical study showed higher levels of satisfaction for hospice care for loved ones than without it. Learning more about the facts about hospice care can help you and your family make an informed choice.

Myth #1: “If you get hospice care, it means you’re giving up.”

Reality: This might be the most common myth about hospice. But it’s untrue. Hospice is about a different approach to care. One focused on comfort, managing pain and having a quality of life with loved ones.

Why choose hospice? If a person has a serious illness, a cure might not be possible. Also, hospice doesn’t mean that all care is ended. The care team will treat symptoms and other health issues. For example, if a person is in hospice for cancer, he or she can still receive treatment for blood pressure.

Myth #2: “You have to be taken away to a special hospice facility.”

Reality: Untrue. Hospice isn’t a place. It’s an approach and philosophy to care. Hospice can happen in a lot of different places. The majority of people (55.6%) receive hospice care in the comfort of their homes (according to the NHPCO).

For hospice care, there is a team of care providers, like nurses, doctors, social workers, counselors and spiritual advisors. They work together to make sure the person in hospice care is well-supported, no matter where they are.

Myth #3: “Hospice care speeds up death.”

Reality: Hospice care is not about death. It’s about life. Not only for people near the end of their life, but also family and other loved ones. Hospice can also provide bereavement care, as this can be a difficult time for loved ones. One of the hardest things with the death of loved ones is to see them in pain. Hospice care puts that front and center with pain management.  Hospice care can also include things like music therapy and aromatherapy to help put people at ease as much as possible.

Hospice care does not hasten death, but it may prevent disruptive hospital visits at the very end of life.

Myth #4: “If a patient gets better, they can’t return to regular medical treatment.”

Reality: Patients might start to feel better. If so, they have the choice to return to regular medical care any time they want. Hospice care is about choice. And putting control in the hands of patients and their care team.

Myth #5: “Hospice care has to be costly.”

Reality: Hospice care doesn’t have to be costly at all. It’s often a covered benefit under Medicare, Medicaid and many other private insurance plans. You will want to check with your plan to see if it’s covered.

Hospice Care: A Path Forward

The end of a person’s life can be a confusing and stressful time filled with intense emotions, both for the patient dying and for people who care about that patient. Hospice care can be an option to help ease some of that stress and provide peace of mind. It can also be a good way to give the patient control of his or her life: not only physically, but emotionally and spiritually as well.