Eight Things You May Not Know About Hospice

Hospice nurse discussing hospice misconceptions with their patient.

Written by Amedisys

Hospice care supports those facing life-limiting illnesses and their family members, focusing on all aspects including physical to psychosocial, emotional and spiritual support. If your family is facing a decision as to whether hospice is the answer, you may be confronted with misconceptions about what hospice is and isn’t. This blog aims to dispel any myths about hospice care.

What is Hospice Care

Hospice is defined as supportive care that focuses on comfort and quality of life for patients with a terminal illness and a life expectancy of six months or less, as certified by a physician. The goal of hospice is comfort and quality of life rather than pursuing aggressive, curative treatments.

An interdisciplinary team of hospice clinicians includes physicians, nurses, aides, social workers, chaplains and more. This team works together to provide care wherever the patient calls home and to guide the patient and their family through the end-of-life journey.

Here Are Eight Things You May Not Know About Hospice

1. Hospice is not giving up

Some may view entering hospice as giving up or even hastening death. Hospice helps patients focus on what really matters to them: living the best quality of life possible, sharing time with loved ones, making new memories and striving for any specific goals they may have.

By managing pain and symptoms, patients can focus on how they want to live their remaining time, restoring hope for a peaceful and meaningful experience.

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2. Hospice is not just for cancer patients

Hospice care is sometimes associated with cancer patients, but the service is available for any eligible patient with a life-limiting illness. This can include heart disease, COPD, lung disease, Parkinson’s disease, dementia and others. In fact, Alzheimer’s disease, dementia and heart-related illnesses both outpace cancer as the top two principal diagnoses of all hospice recipients. Each patient has a unique care plan tailored to their individual needs and circumstances.

3. Hospice is not a place

Hospice is a service, not a place, and is provided wherever the patient calls home. Most patients receive hospice care at their homes, offering safety, comfort and the presence of loved ones. The next largest group of patients receives care in a nursing home, skilled-care or assisted living facility. The smallest percentage receive care in a hospital, hospice center or other setting.

4. Hospice is not just for the final days or weeks

A physician certification that a patient is terminally ill means they have six months or less to live if the disease runs its normal course.

Electing to enter hospice sooner rather than later ensures that symptoms are better managed, pain and psychological suffering may be minimized and that patients can enjoy the comforts of wherever they prefer to call home. According to the latest data available, the median length of stay for hospice patients in 2020 remains at only 18 days of hospice care.

5. Hospice provides medical care

Hospice is provided by a team of skilled clinicians, including nurses, chaplains, social workers and more, to manage pain and symptoms of the disease.

6. Hospice patients can be re-certified after six months of care

Hospice patients are not automatically discharged if they receive six months of care. If the patient lives longer than six months and still qualifies for hospice, their doctor can re-certify them to stay on hospice. Patients and families can always elect to stop hospice care at any time, should the patient’s goals change or for any other reason.

7. Hospice care also supports caregivers

Being a caregiver for a terminally ill family member or friend can be extremely taxing. Hospice is designed to support the caregivers as well both before and after the patient passes. For example, respite care can be available to place the patient in a facility for up to five days/five nights when caregivers need a break. The care team continues to coordinate the plan of care and arranges transport for the patient back and forth from an approved partner facility.

Hospice care also provides bereavement support to family and friends for up to 13 months following the death of the patient. Bereavement activities range from phone calls, individual support, memorial services, commemorative activities, holiday grief support and more.

8. Hospice is not only for the elderly

While hospice is most often associated with the elderly, it is available for anyone facing a life-limiting illness at any stage in life. Many private insurance plans follow similar eligibility guidelines to Medicare and may include a terminal diagnosis and a cessation of curative treatment.

9. Hospice does not mean losing control

Electing hospice doesn’t mean you lose control. Hospice professionals provide support, education and training so patients and families can better manage end-of-life pain and other symptoms. Hospice care is best when caregivers, friends and family are actively engaged in the care of the patient, ensuring the patient lives the rest of their life in comfort, surrounded by the ones they love.

Is hospice the answer for you?

If you or your loved one is considering hospice, consider taking the Amedisys hospice quiz to find out if it’s the right answer for you. A hospice specialist will be available to answer your questions and guide you through the process.

Take the Amedisys hospice quiz to see if hospice would help your loved one.

Is a loved one facing a terminal condition