Hospice Myths

There are many common misconceptions that prevent people from seeking hospice care. They include:

Myth #1: Hospice is a place.

Hospice care takes place wherever the need exists. Patients may be cared for in their own home, in a nursing home or in an assisted living facility.

Myth # 2: Hospice is only for people with cancer.

More than half of hospice patients have diagnoses other than cancer. Hospices also serve families coping with the end stages of chronic diseases like Alzheimerís/dementia, heart disease/heart issues, COPD (emphysema & chronic bronchitis), stroke, Parkinsonís, liver and kidney disease, and many other life-threatening conditions.

Myth #3: Hospice is only for old people.

Although the majority of hospice patients are older, hospices serve people of all ages. Almost 20% of hospice patients are under age 65.

Myth #4: Hospice is only for the patient.

Hospice is a unique type of care which focuses as much on the family as it does on the dying patient. Hospices offer volunteers who can provide respite care, so that exhausted caregivers can take a break. Most also work with bereaved families for at least a year after the patientís death. Many make their grief counseling services available to the community as well.

Myth #5: Hospice can only help when family members are available to provide care.

Terminally ill people may live alone, or with family members who work or are otherwise unable to provide care. Many hospices coordinate community resources to make home care possible. Or, they help to find an alternative location where the patient can safely receive care.

Myth #6: Hospice is for people who don't need a high level of care.

Hospice is serious medicine. Most hospices are Medicare-certified, requiring them to
employ experienced medical and nursing personnel with skills in symptom control and pain management. Hospices offer state-of-the-art palliative care, using advanced technologies to prevent or alleviate pain and other distressing symptoms.

Myth #7: Hospice is only for people who can accept death.

Patients and families affected by a terminal illness typically struggle to come to terms with death, and hospice staff gently help them find their way at their own pace. Staff are readily available to answer questions from families who are unsure about their needs and preferences, plus discuss all options and help facilitate family decisions.

Myth # 8: Hospice care is expensive.

Most people who use hospice are over 65 and are entitled to the Medicare Hospice
Benefit. This benefit covers virtually all hospice services and requires little, if any, out-of-pocket costs. This means that there are no financial burdens incurred by the family, in sharp contrast to the huge financial expenses at the end of life which may be incurred when hospice is not used. Frequently, enrolling a loved one in hospice actually reduces expenses.

Myth # 9: Hospice is for when there is no hope.

When death is in sight, there are two options: submit without hope or live life as fully as possible until the end. The gift of hospice is its capacity to help families see how much can be shared at the end of life through personal and spiritual connections. Therefore itís no wonder that many family members look back upon their hospice experience with gratitude, and with the knowledge that everything possible was done to provide their loved one with a peaceful death.

(Courtesy of the American Hospice Foundation)