What Is Hospice? Truth vs Myth

At Minnesota Hospice, we provide support to both patients and families. Hospice care is about helping our patients and caregivers live each day of their lives to the fullest extent. We encourage hope and enhance the quality of end-of-life care.

When making a decision about hospice care, it helps to have a good understanding of what hospice is and what it is not. Here are some common misconceptions (myths) about hospice, along with the facts.

Myth: I thought that if my mother was under the care of hospice, she could no longer go to the hospital if she needed to. In the past year, she has been hospitalized several times because her pain got out of control.

Truth: While hospice strives to manage pain and other uncomfortable symptoms outside of the hospital, a hospice client always has the choice of whether or not they go to the hospital. The Medicare Hospice Benefit covers short-term general in-patient care in the hospital when a patient’s symptoms can no longer be managed in another care setting.

Myth: I always thought hospice was a place, like that building that I passed on the way home from work.

Truth: Hospice is a philosophy of care, not a place. Hospice care can be provided in any place the client calls home, whether that is a personal home, a skilled nursing center, assisted living facility, or any other place.

Myth: The doctor said I had to sign a Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) order for my wife in order for her to get hospice. I just could not do that; it seemed so final.

Truth: A client can receive hospice care without having a signed DNR. The hospice regulation actually says that hospices cannot discriminate against patients because of any advance directive choices.

Myth: I didn’t consider hospice care early enough because dad was still getting blood transfusions regularly. We weren’t ready to stop because each time he would get one, it seemed to make him feel better for a few days and we just wanted him to feel like himself for as long as possible.

Truth: The Medicare Hospice Benefit may cover chemotherapy, radiation, blood transfusions or other treatment if those treatments are providing comfort for clients eligible to receive the benefit (life expectancy of 6 months or less if the illness runs its normal course).

Myth: I thought that hospice was only for patients with cancer. I didn’t realize that my husband who suffered from Alzheimer’s disease could have benefited from support from the hospice caregiving team too.

Truth: More than 60 percent of hospice patients nationwide have diagnoses other than cancer. Many clients have other diagnoses or advanced stages of chronic diseases like pulmonary disease, Alzheimer’s disease, renal disease, HIV/AIDS, and cardiovascular or neuromuscular diseases.

Myth: I was under the impression that I had to be available as the designated caregiver 24 hours a day in order for my mom to get hospice.

Truth: While some hospices require caregivers prior to the patient being admitted, Minnesota Hospice does not. We help coordinate community resources to keep the patient at home as long as possible and then, help the client find an alternative location to receive care when care at home is no longer possible.

Myth: My dad lives at home. We weren’t considering hospice for dad because we thought it was too expensive. Between the doctor’s visits and the cost of medications today, we have to save everything we can to make sure we can care for his ongoing needs.

Truth: The Medicare and Medicaid Hospice Benefit covers services at 100%, so there is no cost to the client. If clients have private insurance or managed care, Minnesota Hospice will assist in checking their benefits coverage to make sure clients and families understand any potential medical out-of-pocket costs.

Myth: I wanted to learn more about hospice, but I thought I had to wait for the doctor to bring it up first so he could order it for my brother.

Truth: Clients can choose for us to meet with them and discuss the benefit of hospice at any time. We cannot provide hands-on care to a client without a physician’s order but are happy to work with each client’s physician to identify each client’s individual needs.

Myth: I was so scared to even say the word hospice. I thought that it meant I have to give up. Give up hope, give up trying, and give up praying for a cure.

Truth: In order to receive hospice care, the client must be eligible and have an understanding that hospice focuses on comfort care (palliative), not cure. But hospice care is hope for comfort, dignity and quality life for as long as you live. Patients and families do not have to be ready to die before getting the care they need and deserve. Hospice helps clients and families deal with what is happening to them on their own terms and on their own time frame. It is important to get hospice early so that the benefit can help clients prepare and get ready for what is happening. It is not required that clients be ready prior to receiving care.

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“We do not remember days, we remember moments.”

Cesar Pavese

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