Myths & Realities of Hospice Care

Over the years so much about hospice care has evolved, yet misconceptions still persist regarding how hospice works and how beneficial it can be.  It is our goal to dispel the myths and share the reality of what hospice care is and how valuable it is for patients and their loved ones.

Below are some of the most common myths and the realities behind them.

(hover over the myths to find the realities)

Myth

It is the doctor’s responsibility to refer a person to hospice.

Reality

Anyone can refer someone to hospice care. While it’s the provider’s responsibility to determine whether a patient meets the medical eligibility criteria, it’s appropriate for the patient to ask about hospice. Patients and families often say they wish they had gotten hospice services sooner, so we recommend talking about hospice care when given a life-limiting diagnosis, even though services may not be needed for a while.

Myth

Hospice means giving up hope. Once started on hospice, a person is going to die soon.

Reality

With hospice, hope can transcend the disease, allowing the patient and their loved ones the opportunity to hope for “good days.” In the best situations, patients can hope to fulfill items on their bucket list and spend quality time with loved ones. Studies have shown that people on hospice can live longer than those who are not on hospice care.

Myth

Hospice is where you go to die.

Reality

Hospice is not a place. It is a philosophy of care that brings the medical team to wherever a patient is living. Private homes, assisted living communities, hospitals or long term care facilities are all places where people can receive hospice.

Myth

You can't keep your own primary care provider if you enter a hospice program.

Reality

As a hospice patient, you get to choose which provider you’d like to follow your care. Our medical director works closely with your family doctor or specialist, who is encouraged to remain engaged and help determine the specific medical needs that will be addressed in your individual plan of care.

Myth

Hospice is only for cancer patients.

Reality

Today, while many hospice patients have cancer, about two thirds of the patients have other life-limiting illnesses such as end-stage heart disease, liver or kidney failure, or complications with dementia.

Myth

Hospice is too expensive and I can't afford it.

Reality

Hospice is covered under the Medicare hospice benefit, Medicaid, and most private insurance plans. Due to  the incredible generosity of the donors who support our Hospice of the Northwest Foundation, patients are never denied hospice care, regardless of their ability to pay.

Myth

Hospice is only for the patient.

Reality

The hospice care team helps caregivers and family members cope during this time of transition. The nurses, aides, social workers and counselors provide support to address the physical, spiritual and psycho-social needs of the patient and their loved ones.

Percentage of Patients by Principal Diagnosis     NATIONWIDE*

Principal Diagnosis Percentage
Cancer

Cardiac & Circulatory

Dementia

Respiratory

Stroke

Other

27.7 %

19.3 %

16.5 %

10.9 %

8.8 %

16.7 %

*above statistics provided by NHPCO.org

Myth

Hospice is only for the last weeks of life.

Reality

A patient is eligible for hospice when a prognosis of six months or less is determined. There is work to do at end of life, and our team helps each patient reach the goals that are important to them. Initiating services early allows the hospice team to provide support and comfort care for a patient and their loved ones. The sooner a person starts hospice services, the more they and loved ones can be supported.

Myth

All hospice programs are the same.

Reality

All hospices that participate with Medicare are required to meet the same guidelines, however the support services may differ between them. At Hospice of the Northwest we have a dedicated team of healthcare providers, social workers and spiritual counselors who are supported in patient care by our volunteers, music and massage therapists and grief counselors. The entire team works together to design a plan providing the best care for patients and their loved ones.