Debunking Myths About Hospice

| By Casa de la Luz

Myth: Hospice is only for the last few days of life.

The National Hospice & Palliative Care Organization reports that 35.7 percent of hospice patients died or were discharged from service within seven days of admission in 2011. Could this be because many individuals believe hospice care is only available to patients who are in the last few days of life? Well, let us clear this myth up, and assure you it is decidedly untrue.

The Medicare Hospice Benefit guidelines state that a patient is eligible for hospice if two physicians certify he/she has six months or less to live, if the illness follows its expected course. This six months or less guideline means a hospice can provide care, support, and education to patients and their loved ones for months instead of days. And, because illnesses are not always predictable, some individuals might remain on hospice for longer than six months, as long as the hospice physician or nurse practitioner certifies that a patient’s health is still declining and he/she is still dying. During these final months of life, the hospice team visits the patient regularly to help manage and control symptoms, explains the dying process, helps organize final arrangements, and provides counseling at the end of life.

Myth: Hospice is a place you go.

It’s not uncommon to hear an individual say something like, “when my husband went to the hospice” or “when mom was at the hospice,” and then people begin to assume that hospice is a place you go to die. Confusion also occurs because many providers also have a residential hospice home or an inpatient unit. However, most hospice patients are cared for in their place of residence, the place they call their home. Hospice is not a place you go, but a holistic philosophy of health care. Hospice emphasizes whole-patient care, treating medical, emotional, and spiritual needs at end of life. It is patient-centered care, designed to give patients comfort and dignity at end of life, and it is designed to do that within the patient’s home.

Myth: Hospice means you’re giving up hope.

Choosing hospice does not have to mean that you’re giving up hope. As we move through life, our goals, wishes, and hopes change. This remains true even as we move toward the end of life. A hospice patient can hope to live until the end of his life in the comfort of his home; a patient might choose for her last months of life to be surrounded by loved ones and under the care of compassionate individuals; children will hope for their mother or father to have a better quality of life at end of life. We as hospice workers hope that we can fulfill our patients’ needs and support a patients’ loved ones through the end of life journey.

If you or someone you love has a terminal illness and would like more information about hospice care, visit NHPCO’s Caring Connections website and click Find A Hospice to find a provider in your area.

If you are in the Pima County area and seeking information about hospice care, contact Casa de la Luz Hospice at 520-544-9890 to schedule a no-cost evaluation.

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