Myth #1 Hospice is a place.

Hospice is a philosophy of care and care takes place wherever the need exists — usually the patient’s home. About 80 percent of hospice care takes place at home, but also in nursing homes or assisted living facilities.

Myth #2 Hospice is only for people with cancer.

More than one-fifth of hospice patients nation-wide have diagnoses other than cancer. Increasingly, hospices are also serving families coping with the end-stages of chronic diseases, like emphysema, Alzheimer’s, cardiovascular and neuromuscular diseases as well as AIDS.

Myth #3 Hospice is only for old people.

Although the majority of hospice patients are older, hospices serve patients of all ages with all types of progressive diseases.

Myth #4 Hospice is for people who have no hope.

With hospice, the miracle isn’t in the cure…it is in the caring. Patients get substantial relief from pain and other symptoms while their families are supported by the caring hospice team. The patient and family choose how to spend the remainder of their time together and have a meaningful, dignified, peaceful end-of-life experience. When death is in sight, there are two options: submit without hope or live life as fully as ever until the end. The gift of hospice is its capacity to help families see how much can be shared at the end of life through personal and spiritual connections often left behind. It is no wonder that many family members can look back upon their hospice experience with gratitude, and with the knowledge that everything possible was done towards a peaceful death.

Myth #5 Hospice is only for dying people.

As a family-centered concept of care, hospice focuses as much on the grieving family as on the dying patient. Most hospices make their grief services available to the community at large, serving schools, churches and the workplace.

Myth #6 Hospice is for people who have only a few days to live.

Hospice care can be provided when a cure is no longer possible and it is believed a patient has six months or less to live. Unfortunately, many people enter the program too late to fully benefit from the many services available to them and their families. People often tell us: “We wish we’d entered the hospice program sooner.”

Myth #7 Hospice can only help when family members are available to provide care.

Recognizing that terminally ill people may live alone, or with family members unable to provide all the needed care, many hospices coordinate community resources to make home care possible. Or they help to find an alternative location where the patient can safely receive care.

Myth #8 Hospice is for people who don't need a high level of care.

Hospice is serious medicine and end-of-life care is extremely complex. Most hospices are Medicare-certified, requiring that they employ experienced medical and nursing personnel with skills in pain and symptom control. Hospices offer state-of-the-art palliative care, using advanced technologies to prevent or alleviate distressing symptoms without the use of invasive technology. Hospice efforts are further enhanced by the rest of the caring professionals and volunteers who provide a full range of support services for the entire family.

Myth #9 Hospice is only for people who can accept death.

While those affected by terminal illness struggle to come to terms with death, hospices gently help them find their way at their own speed. Many hospices welcome inquiries from families who are unsure about their needs and preferences. Hospice staff are readily available to discuss all options and to facilitate family decisions.

Myth #10 Hospice care is expensive.

Most people who use hospice are over 65 and are entitled to the Medicare Hospice Benefit. This benefit covers virtually all hospice services and requires little, if any, out-of-pocket costs. This means that there are no financial burdens incurred by the family, in sharp contrast to the huge financial expenses at the end of life which are incurred when hospice is not used.

Medicaid and most private insurance also typically pay for all or nearly all the cost of hospice services. No one is ever turned away because of inability to pay.

Myth #11 Hospice is not covered by managed care.

While managed care organizations (MCOs) are not required to include hospice coverage, Medicare beneficiaries can use their Medicare hospice benefit anytime, any where they choose. They are not locked into the end-of-life services offered or not offered by the MCOs. On the other hand, those under 65 are confined to the MCO’s services, but are likely to gain access to hospice care upon inquiry.

Myth #12 Hospice staff can’t talk to patients until they have a referral from their physician.

Hospice recognizes end-of-life issues are quite diverse as well as confusing and stressful. We encourage patients and their families to consult with us as soon as possible so they are aware of various options available during the final weeks and months of life. Yes, a physician referral is ultimately required for admission to a hospice program; however, families are encouraged to call anytime for advice or information about their end-of-life concerns.