No, it’s not a typo. ‘Hope’ is often the last thought in our minds when discussing hospice and the overwhelming fears that accompany a terminal diagnosis. By talking about what hospice is and what it can offer, we want to help you find hope when considering hospice services.
People typically associate hospice with someone who’s about to pass away, likely within days or weeks. That’s one of the most common misconceptions about hospice. Let’s walk through some other common misbeliefs, to give you a better understanding of the support hospice can offer.
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 24/7 care.
Hospice services can be provided in any setting that you or your loved one call home. Hospice care can be provided in private homes, assisted living or memory care communities, or in a skilled nursing facility. While hospice isn’t 24/7 support, there is increased, specialized support available. And based on your preferences and needs, hospice care can be combined with other services offered through a senior living community or home health provider.
3. Hospice is only there for pain control.
Hospice focuses on the wellbeing of the whole patient—spiritually, physically and mentally. Patients receive the support that works for them.
4. Hospice care is only for the last few weeks of life.
While a terminal condition with a prognosis of six months or less is needed to enroll in hospice services, it’s also not uncommon for patients receiving hospice services to do so for months or even years before passing away. If you qualify for hospice, timely enrollment can allow your team to get to know you and your preferences sooner. Hospice services can also be extended as long as you medically qualify.
5. Hospice care is only for the patient.
Hospice is a wraparound service, not just meant for the person who needs it most and receives direct services and support. Loved ones also receive support for a full 13 months after someone passes 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 on hospice.
The majority of people receiving hospice care do pass away, but the care provided by hospice does NOT speed up the process. Hospice may even delay someone’s passing by increasing the level of support and comfort that’s available.
8. Hospice is only for those who are diagnosed with cancer.
Hospice can be ordered by a medical doctor for anyone with a qualifying terminal diagnosis (life expectancy of 6 months or less).
9. Hospice care takes away your voice.
While receiving hospice care, patients can still be their own advocates, making individualized health care decisions as long they’re able. When timely enrollment is considered, hospice patients are able to state their needs and wishes to ensure they’re honored during their journey.
10. Once you’re enrolled in hospice, you cannot disenroll in hospice.
Anyone can discontinue hospice at any time if they choose to seek treatment options for their condition or for any reason they choose. On rare occasions, some hospice patients have also had an improvement in their health and can be medically discharged from hospice.
11. Hospice patients must sign a “Do Not Resuscitate” or “DNR” order.
A DNR is not required to receive hospice services.
If you or a loved one is faced with end-of-life decisions, we encourage you to reach out to consider if hospice options may be right for you.