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Ten Myths about Hospice and Palliative Care

Armen Hareyan's picture

Hospice isn't a place. And hospice care is not just about those who are dying. Hospice is a comprehensive kind of care that focuses on living - it’s about living as fully as possible, surrounded by family and friends, up until the end of life. Palliative care brings this special philosophy of care to people earlier in the course of a serious illness.

Last year, 1.4 million dying Americans were served by the nation’s hospice providers, reports the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization. Yet there are many myths about hospice that keep people from getting this compassionate care when they need it most.

Here are the 10 myths and facts about the hospice and palliative care.

1. Hospice is where you go when there is nothing more a doctor can do. The reality is that hospice is a philosophy of care providing medical, emotional, and spiritual care focusing on comfort and quality of life.

2. Good care at the end of life is very expensive. The reality is that medicare beneficiaries pay little or nothing for hospice, and most insurance plans, HMOs and managed care plans include hospice coverage.

3. Hospice is only for the last few days of life. The reality is that hospice patients and families can receive care for six months or longer, depending upon the course of the illness.

4. Choosing hospice means giving up all medical treatment. The reality is that hospice places the patient and family at the center of the care-planning process and provides high-quality pain management and symptom control.

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5. Everyone dies in a hospital. The reality is that hospice goes to the patient and family at home - whether that’s a private home, a nursing home or assisted living facility, or a hospice residence.

6. Hospice is only for cancer or AIDS patients. The reality is that fifty percent of hospice patients are diagnosed with conditions other than cancer or AIDS.

7. Families are not able to care for people with terminal illnesses. The reality is that hospice involves families, and offers them professional support and training in caring for their loved ones.

8. Hospice is just for the elderly. The reality is that hospice serves anyone facing a life-limiting illness, regardless of age.

9. There’s no hospice in my area. The reality is that less than one percent of Medicare beneficiaries live in an area where hospice is not available.

10. Hospice only focuses on the dying process. The reality is that hospice offers grief and bereavement services to family members and the community.

If this information about hospice surprises you, take the time to find out more. The best time to learn about hospice is before someone in your family is facing a health care crisis.

For more information contact the Caring Connections HelpLine at 800-658-8898 (the Multilingual Line at 877-658-8896) or visit www.caringinfo.org. This information is provided by the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization and eMaxHealth.

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“How can you take the fear of death and turn it into something profound, something positive? What is the alchemy that allows someone who is in a metaphorical desert to turn around and see a flower?” – From Living Fully, Dying Well: Reflecting on Death to Find Your Life's Meaning by Edward Bastian and Tina Staley. This is an important and lovely book (Sounds True, 2009) on the spirituality of living, death and dying that reads like a kitchen-table conversation among a variety of spiritual elders and medical experts. Hospice workers, caregivers, and families dealing with end of life issues will find this book to be comforting, insightful and important in helping open up the conversation that people are aching to have with their loved ones. Written with With Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi, Joan Halifax Roshi, Dr. Ira Byock, Tessa Bielecki, Mirabai Starr, and Marilyn M. Schlitz. I must say I work for Sounds True where we published this, but as a former cancer caregiver and someone with friends and family facing end of life issues a lot in the past decade, this book really resonates with me. See livingfullydyingwell.org for more info.