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The Top 10 Hospice Myths

A lot of myths are just harmless fiction, simple fables recited because they sound like truth. Unfortunately, few topics are more clouded by myths than hospice. Believing those tales can prevent the dying and their loved ones from experiencing the valuable and positively life-altering benefits that hospice care brings.

 

The professionals at Mount Evans Home Health Care & Hospice have a whole world of compassionate care to offer the terminally ill and their families. Sadly, too many people allow far too much time to pass before asking for help because they don’t fully understand the hospice mission, or worse, misunderstand it entirely. I know, because I WAS ONE OF THOSE “MANY” who waited far too long to seek hospice care when my own mother was dying from lung cancer many years ago.

 

I’d like to take a moment to sweep away a few of the most stubborn clouds surrounding end-of-life care by addressing some of the most common and damaging myths about hospice.

 

Myth: Hospice is a place.

Hospice is a philosophy, not a facility. The sole and essential purpose of hospice is to help the terminally ill live as comfortably and fully as possible in the time that remains to them. While those services can be performed in hospitals and residential care centers, the great majority of hospice care is provided in the familiar comfort of a patient’s very own home.

 

Myth: Only a doctor can refer a patient to hospice.

Anyone – family, friends, clergy – can refer someone to hospice with a single phone call to Mount Evans. We will then work with the patient’s physician to determine if hospice care is appropriate and, if so, arrange for services to begin.

 

Myth: Hospice care is too expensive.

Most of Mount Evans’ patients are insured by Medicare or Medicaid, and both programs cover a wide range of critical hospice services such as doctor fees, skilled nursing, medical equipment, prescription drugs to control pain, in-home hospice aid, and homemaker services. And because every program is carefully tailored to meet the needs of the individual it serves, Medicare will also pay for all or most of any other program-covered symptom management service that a hospice team recommends. Just as important, as a community-based nonprofit that serves neighbors, not clients, Mount Evans works hard to ensure that desperately needed hospice care remains available to uninsured and under-insured residents.

 

Myth: Hospice is only for people with six months to live.

There is no “time limit” for hospice. Disease doesn’t always follow a prescribed course, and while Medicare and Medicaid do require a doctor-certified life expectancy of no more than nine months before authorizing hospice benefits, once the decision to enter hospice has been made, legislation passed by Congress in 1998 ensures that both Medicare and Medicaid coverage will be there for the duration, however long that might be.

 

Myth: Hospice means giving up control.

It’s exactly the opposite, actually. By choosing hospice, patients are able to consult with their experienced Mount Evans hospice team, their physician, and their own loved ones to choose when, where and how their individualized program of care will be administered. Moreover, with pain controlled and many non-medical worries eased, and with the help of our team of therapists, counselors and social workers, hospice patients are better able to direct other aspects of their personal and financial affairs. This allows them to prepare the advance directives that will ensure that their final wishes are known and respected. Additionally, despite what you may have heard, hospice patients are absolutely not required to sign a ‘Do Not Resuscitate’ order.

 

Myth: Strong pain medications deprive hospice patients of awareness.

While controlling pain is a fundamental function of hospice care, the point and purpose of hospice is to help the terminally ill maintain the best possible quality of life, and to allow each patient to participate as fully as possible in the life they have remaining. Every single treatment plan is carefully designed to keep the patient both as comfortable as possible, and as engaged as possible. A life lived with dignity deserves to end with nothing less.

 

Myth: Once you enter hospice, there’s no turning back.

Hospice is a specific program of medical care, not a definitive sentencing. Symptoms may change, prognoses may change, and hearts may change, which is why hospice patients are free to discontinue participation in hospice any time they wish. A hospice patient might decide to resume a course of curative treatment, for instance, or their medical situation might simply improve beyond the scope of hospice care, as was the case with my own father-in-law some years ago.  In either case, Mount Evans will stay with them every step of the way through an open-ended program of palliative care. Former hospice patients are also free to re-enter hospice any time they choose, provided they still meet the medical eligibility criteria.

 

Myth: Hospice is giving up.

Nothing could be further from the truth. Hospice isn’t about surrendering to death. At its heart, it really isn’t about death at all. Hospice is about making the most of life by living as fully and richly as possible. It’s about meaningful time spent with family, quiet spiritual contemplation, experiencing new things and savoring the past. It’s a comprehensive system of care and support designed to uplift the dying, and to comfort and assist the loved ones who will survive them. The earlier you call, the more care, support, comfort, and assistance we can provide.

 

Hospice is about quality of life, and Mount Evans is committed to making every day of every life the best it can be.

 

 

 

 

 

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