Hospice Myths & Truths

MYTH: A person has to be at the very end of life before he can receive hospice services.

TRUTH: The criteria for hospice is that a person has a prognosis of 6 months or less to live, a doctor orders hospice services and the patient no longer wants curative treatment. A person with cancer, for example, may have a very active lifestyle with 6 months or less to live. The earlier an individual receives hospice care, the more opportunity there is to stabilize the medical condition and address other needs. Some patients actually improve and may be discharged from hospice care.

MYTH: Hospice is that place you go to die.

TRUTH: Hospice is not a place, but a service provided wherever a person lives. Most hospice patients die in their home but care can also be provided in senior living community, assisted living facility, or skilled nursing facility.

MYTH: Hospice is a service to help people die.

TRUTH: Hospice provides palliative care (aka comfort care), NOT euthanasia. The goal is to neither prolong nor shorten life, but simply keep a patient comfortable while they are living. This includes pain control, bowel comfort, maintaining breathing, wound care, decreasing anxiety, emotional support, etc.

MYTH: If a patient lives more than 6 months, hospice is over.

TRUTH: There is no way to predict a prognosis exactly. If a person lives more than 6 months, hospice can continue. A person is reevaluated for hospice every 90 days for 6 months then every 60 days indefinitely. As long as the patient still has “6 months or left to live” at that reevaluation/certification period, that person can continue with hospice services. A person can also revoke the hospice benefit at any time for any reason (i.e. to receive treatment for disease, etc.) or transfer to another hospice for any reason.

MYTH: Family has to pay for hospice care.

TRUTH: Hospice is a Medicare part A covered benefit and is covered by most private insurances and Medicaid. All hospice services required under the Medicare guidelines are paid for. Passages also pays for incontinence supplies, extra physical, occupational and speech therapy, and additional services on a case by case basis.

MYTH: A patient has to give up his doctor to be on hospice.

TRUTH: Patients may keep their own physician, who will work closely with the hospice Medical Director to plan and carry out comfort care.

MYTH: Hospice is only for cancer patients.

TRUTH: A large number of hospice patients have congestive heart failure, dementia, chronic lung disease, renal failure or other conditions.

MYTH: Hospice provides 24 hour care.

TRUTH: The hospice team (which includes nurses, social workers, home health aides, chaplains, and bereavement counselors) visits patients intermittently, and are available 24 hours a day/7 days a week for support and care if a patient is stable. In that case, Passages Hospice can arrange for additional caregivers paid for by the family. If a person on hospice has an acute situation (such as severe pain, organ failure, etc.) then care can be provided up to 24 hours per day under the continuous care hospice benefit. This only continues until the patient is no longer in crisis.

MYTH: All hospice programs are the same.

TRUTH: All licensed hospice programs must provide certain services, but the range of support services and programs may differ.

MYTH: Hospice is just for the patient.

TRUTH: Hospice is mandated to provide support to the patient and the family. The patient receives physical, emotional and spiritual support. The family receives emotional support to cope with losing their loved one as well as options for respite when caregiving is too much. Bereavement support for the family continues at least 13 months after the patient dies.