Hospice care has been gaining significant traction after countless studies have documented its notable benefits. In fact, the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization reported that about 1.55 million people sought and received hospice care in 2018 alone. That’s already a 4% increase of patients compared to prior years.

However, there are still a lot of misconceptions about hospice care from patients, families, and caregivers alike. Hospice myths and facts seem to overlap for some people, preventing them from getting the care and support they need.

So, let’s set things straight by debunking some of the most common myths surrounding hospice care.

Myth #1: Hospice is only for people who have given up on life.

Fact: Many people associate the term “hospice” with “dying” or “giving up.” But in reality, hospice works its wonders by giving hope to terminally ill people that there’s still more to life than their disease.

Hospice care is specifically designed to improve the overall well-being of a person with life-limiting conditions, such as cancer or any chronic diseases. It aims to honor one’s end-of-life choices and provide the care they need with dignity and respect. 

Furthermore, hospice care service not only meets the medical needs of a patient. It also focuses on improving the emotional, psychosocial, mental, and spiritual aspects of the patient and their family or carers. 

So basically, its primary goal is to improve one’s quality of life, which is the complete opposite of giving up. In fact, studies show that enrolling in hospice care can improve symptom control and condition management, thus enhancing prognosis.

Myth #2: Hospice Care is expensive.

Fact: Medicare or Medicaid will cover your or your loved one’s hospice care, so you won’t have to pay a single penny. Some services included in the coverage are:

  • Basic medical services
  • Doctors’ and nursing services and visits from other healthcare professionals
  • Medications, medical equipment, and other services needed for pain and symptoms management
  • Social services
  • Assistance and homemaking services
  • Occupational and physical therapies
  • Spiritual needs, grief counseling, and other bereavement services for the patient and the family

Additionally, veterans’ benefits and other private insurance companies have specific policies that cover hospice services.

Myth #3: Once you enter a hospice program, there’s no turning back.

Fact: A hospice program is not a prison sentence. Like any other medical service, you have the freedom to revoke your participation and leave the program without penalty. At the same time, you can also re-enter anytime if you still meet the criteria for hospice care, such as:

  • A terminal illness with a declared prognosis or life expectancy of fewer than six months.
  • There’s a noticeable worsening in symptoms and general health conditions for the past four to six months—for example, a drastic change in nutritional status or decreased ability to perform activities of daily living.
  • A patient with a life-limiting condition whose specific treatments don’t work anymore.
  • Specific health changes, in particular hospice-qualified diseases.

Myth #4: Hospice is only for the elderly.

Fact: It’s understandable for the public to assume that hospice is only for seniors. After all, studies show that 61.4% of individuals receiving hospice care were 75 years or older. However, hospice services are not exclusive to the elderly alone. Anyone can and should have access to it, as long as they meet the criteria stated above.

Generally, most patients who seek hospice care are those experiencing chronic or terminal conditions. This includes:

  • Cancer
  • Chronic cardiovascular problems
  • Chronic respiratory illnesses
  • AIDS
  • Diabetes
  • Chronic kidney and liver disease
  • Severe autoimmune diseases, such as multiple sclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis
  • Neurological disorders, such as dementia

Furthermore, intellectually and developmentally disabled persons can also get hospice services. However, few people know this because of the stigma surrounding hospice care.

Myth #5: Hospice hastens death.

Fact: Hospice care neither hastens death nor prolongs one’s life. What it does is improve a patient’s quality of life through medical care, emotional support, and spiritual services. In fact, studies showed that under hospice care patients live and thrive far better and longer than non-hospice patients. 

Myth #6: Hospice care is only for people with a few days or weeks to live.

Fact: This is not true. Although it’s easy to think that since most patients who get referred to hospice only have less than six months to live. Additionally, many patients also seek hospice in the end stages of the disease, when it has already worsened and affected several body systems.

But according to NHPCO, patients and families can get the full benefits of hospice care by enrolling in the program early on. This allows palliative treatments to work better while providing comfort and overall support to the patient.

Myth #7: Hospice is only for patients with cancer.

Fact: Cancer patients represent the majority of hospice patients during the last ten years. However, anyone with an incurable disorder or a chronic life-limiting condition can enter the program. According to the latest survey, the top 6 illnesses of individuals seeking hospice for its benefit include:

  • Cancer – 29.6%
  • Heart disease – 17.4%
  • Dementia – 15.6%
  • Respiratory illness – 11%
  • Stroke – 9.5%
  • Chronic kidney disease – 2.2%

Furthermore, hospice care teams have significant knowledge in managing the symptoms of chronic illnesses and not just cancer. 

Myth #8: Hospice is a place.

Fact: This is another major misconception that does not ring true at all. Hospice is NOT a place; it is a specialized form of medical care and services for patients with chronic and terminal conditions.

Moreover, hospice care may be given in any setting, wherever the patient feels most comfortable and at peace. Most patients and their families choose to receive hospice services in their home, nursing facility, senior living, hospital, or a hospice facility.

Myth #9: Only a doctor can refer someone to hospice care.

Fact: A doctor can refer a patient to hospice care, but they’re not the only ones who can do that. A friend, a family member, loved one, nurse, social workers, or clergy can make a recommendation for hospice if they think a patient can benefit from its services.

You or your loved one can also open a discussion with your doctor about your willingness to do hospice. They can then make a referral, making you eligible for Medicare and other insurance coverage. 

Myth #10: Hospice and palliative care are the same.

Fact: Both hospice and palliative care services work to manage symptoms and relieve pain, thus improving one’s quality of life. Both types of life care options also offer 24-hour assistance and support to patients and family members. 

However, they do have striking differences. For one, when you get referred or choose hospice care, it means that you are no longer pursuing curative treatments for your disease. Rather, hospice services will focus on managing your symptoms and bringing emotional and spiritual comfort to you and your family.

On the contrary, palliative care may be offered to anyone with an illness that’s not necessarily terminal. Additionally, this type of care option starts at diagnosis and happens simultaneously with their treatment.

caregiver taking care of the old lady

Read more about the differences between these two here in our blog Hospice vs. Palliative Care: What’s the Difference?

Learn More Facts on Hospice Care at Cardinal Hospice

If you think you or a loved one can benefit from such types of care options, then choose hospice care and services at Cardinal Hospice.

Our hospice and palliative care organization provides high-quality services rooted in compassion, trust, and respect for every patient.

Our esteemed care team works closely with every patient and family member to create an individualized care plan in line with their wishes and health condition. 

Visit our website to learn more about the different services we provide and to learn more about hospice myths and facts.