Hospice care is a patient-centered service that provides pain relief and increased life quality for terminally ill patients. It is a service that has been in the modern industry for about four to five decades but is not as widely known as it should be.
There are a lot of rumors surrounding Hospice care and palliative care. Some people are led to believe that they bring about a quicker death for the patient or that it is an expensive treatment that could bankrupt a family.
They think that hospice care is about giving up and that it is only for people with cancer. All of these rumors are false and are brought on by lack of information on truth behind hospice care.
This article is going to bust a few of the rumors and myths surrounding hospice care.
MYTH #1: Hospice care is expensive
Hospice is fully covered by Medicare insurance or Medicaid benefit. Even private insurance plans fully cover the expenses brought on by hospice care.
If a patient is not enrolled under an insurance plan, they can receive a reduced rate from their hospice provider or request for help paying through donations in kind, grants, and other sources.
Most hospice care companies can also offer pro-bono service depending on a family or patient’s financial situation.
An average insurance company such as Medicare covers about $190 for the first 60 days of care, then drops it to about $145 for every day thereafter.
As long as a patient meets the criteria that determine their need for hospice care, the service is offered to them for as little to no cost as possible. There are three main criteria:
- The patient’s hospice doctor and primary care physician certify that they are terminally ill with a prognosis of 6 months or less
- The patient accepts palliative care instead of curative treatment for their illness
- The patient signs a statement choosing hospice care instead of other Medicare-covered benefits to treat the terminal illness or related conditions
There is always a way to ask for funding when it comes to treatment for end-stage hospice care. The cost of hospice should not discourage a family from deciding to opt for this service.
MYTH #2: Hospice care kills its patients
According to the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization, the philosophy of hospice care is to recognize that quality of life, peace, and comfort at the end of life should be the focus of healthcare when curing a patient’s disease is no longer possible.
Hospice care faces the inevitability of death without hastening it nor preventing it. It aims to provide as much comfort for the patient as possible.
This is often supported with the use of pain-relieving medicines such as opioids like morphine to help with pain relief. The use of such a drug then brings about a new issue, which involves a patient losing their mental stability because of the continued use of the drug.
To fix the taboo behind this myth, it is important to know that the dosage for opioids or morphine depends on the tolerance of the patient to the drug.
The treatment of pain relief involves introductory doses that allow the body to adjust to its use. As the patient builds a tolerance, then the doses have to be adjusted to continue treating the pain.
This ensures that the patient receives pain relief without receiving a lethal and harmful dosage of the pain-relieving drug. This is one of the most basic forms of comfort a hospice care can offer because the symptoms patience face in end-stage care really takes a mental and physical toll.
MYTH #3: There are only old people in hospice
While it is true that as old people grow older, their health tends to deteriorate. But old people are not the only ones who need hospice care.
Hospice care is for all patients who are at the end-stage of their lives. They are people who are suffering from a terminal illness that only projects six months or less to live.
MYTH #4: Hospice is only for people with cancer
Cancer is not the only terminal illness that lands people in hospice care. Nearly three-quarters of hospice care patients were not diagnosed with cancer.
This myth does bear some credence to it since cancer is one of the most universally well-known diseases that greatly affects life quality and expectancy.
However, other diseases that land patients in hospice care include:
• Heart disease
• Lung disease
• Chronic kidney disease
Organ failure, Alzheimer’s, Emphysema—these are just more examples of chronic diseases that could prompt a patient to pursue hospice care.
MYTH #5: Hospice and palliative care are the same
This is one of the most common myths. In reality, hospice care falls under the big umbrella of palliative care.
Palliative care is a medical caregiving approach that focuses on improving a patient’s quality of life and assisting their family through the grieving process. There is palliative care integrated into hospice care, but hospice care is reserved for patients who are at end-stage of their lives.
Hospice care does not end when a patient dies. It continues long after the patient passes by offering bereavement counselling to the patient’s family members.
They make sure that families go through a counselling process that helps them navigate their thoughts and emotions in a healthy, non-destructive manner.
MYTH #6: The patient gives up all control over their life
As long as the patient is of sound mind, they are still entitled to make their own decisions about their level of care and comfort.
Hospice social workers are one of the people in charge of communicating a patient’s directives to their family members and to the patient’s medical team.
They maintain a patient’s emotional state by coordinating closely with their family and medical team in order to address any issues that arise during the duration of the care.
Their job is all about the well-being of a patient’s relationships with the people who are around them. They should have a knack for conflict resolution in order to navigate their way through difficult situations.
In no way does hospice care encourage a patient to give up control of their life. Instead, they want patients to tell them what they need or want to do so that the team can come up with a plan to implement it.
MYTH #7: You have to wait for a doctor to get hospice care
Most doctors or patients won’t even consider hospice care until it’s too late. They become carried away by treatment plans that could do more harm than good.
If a patient or family member feels like there has been no improvement to the well-being of the patient, they can bring up the option of hospice care and see how it goes from there.
Do note that patients still have to pass three criteria in order to be considered eligible for hospice care. This is decided upon by the patient’s physician, a hospice doctor, a hospice liaison, and an admission nurse.
MYTH #8: If someone is in hospice, they’ve given up on life
Entering into hospice care is a celebration of the time a person has left instead of mourning the inevitable. It is a show of support that life doesn’t have to end just because a disease can no longer be cured.
It follows a philosophy that accepts death as inevitable but does not hasten the process. Instead, it focuses on treating the patient by relieving the symptoms and keeping them comfortable.
Studies show that people who elected to seek hospice care were happier and healthier than those who did not opt for it. Interviews were published in a book entitled On Death and Dying detailing the experiences of 500 patients who went through hospice care.
Pictures of people taken before and after hospice care showed a positive change in a patient’s demeanor.
So, hospice is not full of people who have given up on life. Rather, it is full of people who have decided to spend the last of what their life can over in a place that allows them to die with dignity with all the comfort life can offer.
It maximizes their choices and their quality of life by allowing them to live fully for as long as possible.
MYTH #9: A hospice is a hospital or facility where dying people go to
In the U.S.A., hospice care is more of a service that is brought to a patient’s home or place of residence rather than service.
If it doesn’t take place in a patient’s home, it can also include nursing homes, assisted living facilities, and residential care facilities.
However, there are a few facilities that are dedicated to housing patients who are under hospice care. These are more commonly found in the U.K. where establishments were built during the rise of hospice and palliative care.
Rarely does hospice care happen in a hospital because patients who opt for hospice care sign contracts that states they will no longer take part in curative care.
And, they prefer to have it done in the comfort of their own home rather than the institutionalized walls of a hospital. Curative care means the continued treatment of their terminal illness like chemotherapy, an organ transplant, etc.
Should the patient develop a condition that has to be treated through curative means, they can opt out of hospice care, get the treatment, then sign back into hospice care.
MYTH #10: People in hospice care only have a few days or weeks to live
Hospice care is intended for patients who receive a prognosis of 6 months or less. On average, patients spend about 24 days to 76 days in hospice.
The treatment involved in hospice care does not prolong life nor does it hasten death. It just keeps a patient as comfortable as possible for the entire duration of their stay.
There is also this rumor going around that a patient is only eligible for six months of hospice care. Like this myth, it is also false.
Health can improve in some patients, making them ineligible for hospice care, and discharged. They can be opt to receive palliative care instead.
They can re-enroll back in hospice care if their condition deteriorates again.
These are just a few myths that surround hospice care. It is important to do your own research before believing the rumors that fly around.
The basic gist of everything is this: Hospice care aims to improve the quality of life and provide the most comfortable experience possible for the patient at end-stage life care.
All hospice care programs function with the patient’s decisions first and foremost. Patients who are still of a sound mind can make decisions for themselves and they are always respected.
Educating yourself and your family about the truth behind hospice care helps you make the right decision when it comes to choosing treatments or options designated for end-of-life service.
It may not be for every patient, but it may just be for you. With the access provided by the Internet, it is easier now more than ever to compare different hospice care programs to decide if it really is right for you.
Remember that hospice care is a service that extends to your family as well as you. Once you pass on, your family is assured to receive the best bereavement counseling and grief counseling out there.
This is all paid for by medical insurance companies so that there is little to no worry about the costs involved in the last stage of your life. Spend this remaining time in the company of the people you love the most.
Hospice care treats its patients with dignity and respect and does everything it can to uphold the four main aspects of a patient’s well-being: Physical, emotional, spiritual, and social.
If you have any more questions related to hospice care, do not hesitate to contact your physician for any clarifications.