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Shedding Light on Common Hospice Myths: Get the Facts on End-of-Life Care

Hospice is a specialized, team-based approach to caring for people with a life-limiting illness, as well as their loved ones. The team focuses on quality of life so that life can be lived as fully as possible – preserving dignity and respecting personal choice.

While hospice use across the country grows, there are still common misconceptions that may delay individuals and families from seeking hospice care earlier in the end-of-life journey. VNA Care’s hospice team often hears from families that they “wish they had called us sooner.”

Below are frequent myths about hospice and the facts about this important health care resource compiled by the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization and from our own experiences as the first Medicare-certified hospice in Massachusetts:

Myth: Hospice is a place you go when doctors can’t help you anymore.

Fact: Hospice is not a place, it’s a type of unique care that helps people live fully and comfortably at the end of their lives. The philosophy of hospice includes medical, emotional, practical, social, and spiritual support, and is centered on compassion and comfort. Hospice care is not about how doctors can no longer help you, it’s about how a care team can work together to make your life as full as possible. This goes beyond just doctors – care teams involve nurses, social workers, hospice aides, chaplains and bereavement counselors, other clinicians and trained volunteers, to ensure your quality of life is sustained and you stay focused on the things you love. Hospice can be provided wherever the person is living.

Myth: Choosing to receive hospice care is “giving up.”

Fact: We recognize it can be difficult to consider hospice for yourself or a loved one. However, contacting VNA Care’s hospice team does not mean giving up. By starting a conversation about care options as early as possible, you provide yourself with more time to focus on the things important to you. In our experience, connecting with the hospice team as early as possible in the later stages of illness can improve quality of life, and help people accomplish their goals for this time.

Myth: Hospice is only in the hospital.

Fact: Hospice care is delivered wherever a patient calls home. That could mean a private home or apartment, nursing home, group home, or assisted living facility. Patients can also receive hospice care in a short-term, residential inpatient setting – such as our Rose Monahan Hospice Home in Worcester.

Myth: Hospice is only for the last few days of life.

Fact: Individuals can receive hospice care for as long as they need. Some patients and their families receive care for six months or longer, depending upon the course and nature of their illness. The hospice team can be most effective in helping families meet their goals if we start early enough to understand those goals and work to make them possible.

Myth: Quality hospice care is very expensive.

Fact: People insured by Medicare pay little or nothing for hospice, and most insurance plans, HMOs and managed care plans include hospice coverage. When receiving hospice services, all appropriate medications and medical equipment related to your terminal illness are provided at no cost.

Myth: Hospice is only for cancer or elderly patients.

Fact: Hospice serves people of all ages facing a wide range of terminal conditions. Last year, VNA Care’s hospice patients had more than 500 unique diagnoses, including cardiovascular disease, dementia, and respiratory conditions. Our team at VNA Care can help you evaluate if hospice is right for you, answer your questions, and work with your doctor as needed. Our hospice team is available for phone, online or in-person consultations about hospice care.

Hospice care is a valuable resource for individuals and families facing a life-limiting illness. The best time to learn about hospice is before you or a loved one face a healthcare crisis, and VNA Care is here to guide you every step of the way.

To learn more, visit our hospice webpage or call us at 800-521-5539.