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Quality end-of-life care isn't about how you die; it's about how you live. Hospice and palliative care focuses on how dying persons and their loved ones live each day, providing comfort and guidance along the way.
While more than 1.2 million people were cared for by the nation's 4,000 hospice programs last year, many myths exist about hospice that deter people from seeking out this compassionate system of care.
1. Choosing hospice means that I'm "giving up."
When a cure is no longer possible, hospice provides the type of care most people say they want at the end of life--comfort and quality of life. The most common statement made by families who chose hospice for their loved one is, "we wish we had known about hospice sooner."
2. Hospice care won't allow me or my family to be involved in making decisions about treatment.
Hospice puts patients and families at the center of care. Trained professionals provide guidance and encourage open, honest communication about individual wishes and choices.
3. My grandmother died in a great deal of pain, but that's just to be expected as part of the dying process.
Hospice doctors, nurses, and others are specially trained to control each person's pain, while still keeping the patient awake and alert whenever possible.
4. I want to care for my husband at home; I don't want him to go to a hospice.
Hospice is not a place, but a philosophy of care. The majority of hospice care takes place in the home, where the person can be surrounded by family and familiar settings.
5. My mother lives in a nursing home and I can't bring her to my home to care for her, so hospice wouldn't be available.
Hospice and palliative care is available in nursing homes, assisted living facilities, and even hospitals--wherever the patient lives and considers home.
6. Hospice care just keeps dying people heavily medicated; all they focus on is the physical process of dying.
Hospice pain management is highly specialized and tailored to each individual, to ensure the highest quality of life possible to live each day until the end. In addition, hospice utilizes complementary therapies such as music and art, and provides emotional and spiritual support to the dying person and the loved ones, including bereavement support for the family after the death.
7. My partner's doctor suggested hospice; that must mean that my partner has only a few days left to live.
Hospice care is available to anyone who has a life-threatening or terminal illness, that has a prognosis of six months or less if the illness runs its normal course. Patients can remain in hospice longer than six months if necessary.
8. My son is dying of AIDS, and I want the most compassionate care possible for him. But someone told me hospice care is only for older people with cancer.
Hospice programs have developed guidelines to care for anyone, at any age, facing a life-threatening or terminal illness.
9. My grandfather doesn't have private insurance, so he won't be able to afford good end-of-life care when he needs it.
Hospice is fully covered by Medicare, by Medicaid, and by most HMOs and insurance companies.
10. We live in a rural area, so there won't be any hospice programs that can help me care for my daughter.
More than 4,100 hospice programs serve all regions of the US; less than one percent of Medicare beneficiaries live in an area where hospice in not available.