Updated: Aug 2, 2022
There are many misconceptions around hospice care that often keep patients and caregivers from seeking it out when it could be of benefit and provide much-needed comfort to loved ones in their last days. Here are some of the top misconceptions patients and caregivers have:
Misconception 1: Hospice care is a death sentence.
Because it often comes at the end of life, it is a popular belief that hospice care means death is imminent. This can certainly be the case if hospice care is delayed until the very end, but waiting until the last minute is not an ideal situation for the patient or the hospice provider. The Medicare benefit has structured hospice benefits for the last six months of life. Patients may remain in hospice care longer if their illness continues to run its course and there is no cure.
Misconception 2: Hospice care means giving up.
Hospice care does mean giving up active treatment for your disease. This choice is made because treatments no longer work or the side effects of treatment are worse than the disease itself. However, hospice never gives up hope for the patient; hope just takes a different form. It might not be hope for a long life but hope for another year, or to make it to an event or milestone. End-of-life care focuses on making the remainder of one’s life as fulfilling as possible. Patients can still travel, enjoy family reunions and celebrate life events.
Misconception 3: Hospice care is expensive.
Medicare pays for hospice, and most insurances will have hospice benefits. Hospice covers medications, durable medical equipment and medical supplies related to terminal illnesses. This is a substantial and inexpensive help to families. For more information on what’s covered by Medicare, visit https://www.medicare.gov/coverage/hospice-care
For more information on how to navigate the cost of hospice, get in touch with a hospice care specialist.
Misconception 4: Hospice care ends with the passing of the patient.
Hospice continues to follow the bereaved family for 13 months beyond the life of the patient, understanding that those “left behind” continue to need support, people to confide in and sometimes just notes to say someone is there for them if they need to talk. The Visiting Nurse Association of Greater St. Louis (VNA) offers online grief support groups and individual support with their grief counselor.
Misconception 5: Hospice care means 24-hour care.
It is important to know that hospice care does not mean somebody is there with your loved one all hours of the day. While a nurse will generally visit two times a week and an aide an additional two times, it's important to understand that the bulk of hands-on care is provided by family or private caregivers throughout a patient's time in hospice. Chaplains and social workers will visit one to three times a month. The visit times and days are flexible depending on the needs of the patient. Hospice teaches caregivers how to give medications, address symptom management and deliver the correct care.