Hospice is a type of care many people don’t understand or have a certain belief of what it is. There are a lot of misunderstandings of what hospice means, how it operates and what kind of patients are hospice patients.
Myth 1: Hospice is for Cancer
Many people believe hospice is only for cancer patients. This is not true. More than one-half of hospice patients nation-wide have diagnoses that aren’t cancer. There is an increase of hospice serving families coping with the end-stage of diseases, like emphysema, Alzheimer’s, and cardiovascular and neuromuscular diseases.
Myth 2: Hospice is for Dying Patients
Most people believe hospice is for when you die, and of course this isn’t true. Hospice is implemented when the patient needs it, and usually where the patient lives. Hospice coordinates with community resources to make home care possible. When home care may not be possible, such as in the case of a terminally ill patient who lives alone, or a patient’s family members are unable to provide care, hospice will help to find an alternative location where the patient can safely receive care. In addition, many people are on hospice for many years.
The Truth about Hospice
Hospice is to help individuals that have been diagnosed with a terminal illness and the doctor has given them a life expectancy of a year or less. Hospice is serious medicine. Most hospices are Medicare-certified, requiring that they employ experienced medical and nursing personnel with skills in symptom control. Hospices offer state-of-the-art palliative care, using advanced technologies to prevent or alleviate distressing symptoms. Palliative care is specialized care like hospice, and focuses on providing relief from the symptoms and stress of a serious illness. Hospice and palliative care have the same goal, to improve the quality of life for both the patient and the family. Hospice also helps with providing medical equipment the patient needs.
A majority of people believe that hospice is only for dying people or for people who can accept death. This is not true. Hospice is a family-centered of care, and focuses on the grieving family as much as on the terminal patient. While those affected by terminal illness struggle to come to terms with death, hospices gently help them find their way at their own speed. Patients at times also have a hard time comping with certain equipment that is implemented. A hospital bed placed in the family home for the patient can have patients fearing they are dying. A better perspective in such a case is that a hospital bed just makes it easier for the patient and the caregiver. The patient can have the head or foot of the bed put in certain positions to help make then comfortable. The caregiver can give better care, because they can reach the patient better and not hurt themselves while giving care.
There are individuals who believe hospice means there’s no hope. Individuals with terminal illness know death is inescapable. This is where the patient and families have two options: submit without hope or live life as fully as ever until the end. The gift of hospice is to help families see how much can be shared at the end of life through personal and spiritual connections often left behind. Many family members look back on their hospice experience with gratitude and with the knowledge that everything possible was done towards a peaceful death. Hospice has no financial burdens that are incurred by the family; this is a sharp contrast to the huge financial expenses at the end of life which may be incurred when hospice is not used.
Sandra Morrical is a Hospice Nurse and has been a nurse for 18 years. She wrote for the Orlando Examiner from July 2011 until the website closed down July 10, 2016, as the Orlando Senior Issues Examiner. She continues her writing on senior issues on Linkedln.