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Debunking the Myths of Hospice

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Is hospice really a place sick people go and never come back? Once someone goes into hospice, does that mean the family never gets to see him or her again? Isn’t hospice some sort of religious practice?

The answers to these rumors are no, no and no. It’s time to debunk some of the top myths about hospice:

  1. Hospice is not a place. Those who choose hospice services near the end of life do not “go into” hospice, but receive services where they live. This could be a private residence, assisted living community or nursing home. Some hospitals have hospice beds; however, the intention of hospice is to deliver hospice services to the patient wherever he/she calls home.
  2. Loved ones and relatives are not kept from participating in caring for the hospice patient. In fact, they’re a part of the team. Every patient has an interdisciplinary team that starts with the patient and family: patient, family caregiver, physician, nurse, social worker, chaplain, hospice aid, bereavement specialist, and volunteer. A plan of care is created that family and loved ones carry out at home to the extent they are willing and able.
  3. Hospice is not a last resort. When medical treatments can no longer cure a disease, hospice professionals can do many things to control pain, reduce anxiety, offer spiritual and emotional support, and improve quality of life for terminally ill people and their families.
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  5. Hospice has no religious affiliation. Hospice provides chaplains and other spiritual counselors from all faiths and no faith. They respect all cultures and points of view and are there to lend support and discuss the patient’s and the family’s feelings.
  6. Hospice is not just for cancer patients. Certainly cancer patients make up a large number of hospice patients. However, anyone who has a terminal illness, whether it’s heart disease, COPD, liver disease, kidney failure, stroke, ALS, Alzheimer’s disease, multiple sclerosis, AIDS or any life-limiting condition, is eligible for hospice care.
  7. Hospice care is not expensive. Hospice is usually less expensive than conventional care during the last six months of life. Hospice is an all-inclusive benefit covered by Medicare, Medicaid, MediCal and most private insurance companies. Under Medicare there are no co-pays for physician visits, nursing care, medications, hospice equipment or medical supplies related to the patient’s primary illness.
  8. The patient’s personal doctor is not excluded. A patient’s personal physician can choose to be part of the hospice care team. Hospice doctors have extensive training in end-of-life care and will work closely with a patient’s personal physician to ensure the patient is as comfortable as possible.
  9. Hospice does not forego medications or treatments. On the contrary, hospice takes advantage of state-of-the-art medications and palliative treatments to relieve pain and symptoms to keep patients comfortable.
  10. Families are not shielded from the hospice patient. Hospice professionals believe that when family members—including children—experience the dying process in a caring environment, it helps to counteract the fear of their own mortality and the loss of their loved one.
  11. Hospice does not mean anyone has failed the patient. Hospice is a mode of medical therapy that may be more appropriate than curative procedures for people with terminal illness. Hospice focuses on symptom management, controlling pain and addressing spiritual, emotional and psychological comfort.
  12. Hospice is not about giving up; it’s about living in comfort and dignity for the time one has left.

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