Common Misconceptions About Hospice

Published On 07/11/2011

When considering hospice or palliative care, you need accurate information to guide your decisions. Here are some common misconceptions.

Myth 1: Palliative care and hospice are the same.

Reality: Palliative care and hospice are different types of care.

Palliative care is for individuals in the hospital with advanced or chronic illnesses who may be continuing curative therapies, such as surgery, radiation, or chemotherapy. Anyone with a serious illness, regardless of life expectancy, can receive palliative care.

Palliative care includes physician consultation, pain and symptom management, support for treatment decisions and services for the patients and family during their hospital stay. Ask your healthcare team if palliative care consultation is appropriate for you.

Hospice is for individuals who are facing a life-limiting illness or injury and have a life expectancy of six months or less. Hospice provides symptom control and compassionate care for individuals and their families, regardless of where their care is being provided. The focus is on helping individuals retain dignity during the terminal phase of illness by managing pain and symptoms and maintaining the best possible life.

Myth 2: Hospice provides in-home companion care 24-hours a day, 7-days a week.

Reality: Hospice programs do not provide round-the clock companion services. However, our team is available for scheduled visits and accessible by phone 24-hours a day, 7-days a week. Our physicians sometimes make home visits for specific patient needs. If you would like to arrange round-the-clock companion care, our social workers can provide you with a list.

Myth 3: Hospice is only needed or recommended for people who are in the last few days of life.

Reality: Hospice care can be a great help to you and your family as you face a life-limiting illness and can begin months before the end of life. You’ll get to know those caring for you, and your physician and staff will be able to provide you and your family with a full range of services. Families often remark that they wish they had asked for hospice care much sooner.

Myth 4: Hospice is just for people with end-stage cancer.

Reality: Hospice is open to anyone with a serious health problem including Alzheimer’s, heart failure, kidney failure, stroke, cancer and other life-limiting illnesses. 

Myth 5: If I choose hospice, I cannot be admitted to the hospital.

Reality: If at any time after entering hospice care your symptoms cannot be managed at home, we can arrange hospital or admission to Methodist Hospice Residence.

Myth 6: I won’t be able to afford hospice care.

We can assist you in navigating your financial responsibility. 

Myth 7: If I am in a nursing home, I cannot receive hospice care.

Reality: Methodist Hospice does offer care to patients in nursing homes through contracts with those nursing homes. For more information about whether a particular nursing home is contracted for hospice care, call 901-516-1600. Keep in mind Medicare will not pay for a skilled bed in a nursing home and hospice care at the same time.

Myth 8: I cannot continue to see my personal doctor.

Reality: As Methodist Hospice coordinates your care with your physician, you may continue to see your own personal doctor. Your physician may arrange for your care to be co-managed with our hospice physicians or may ask one of our hospice physicians to take over your care completely. If your physician asks one of the hospice physicians to become your primary doctor, he/she is still welcome to help with your care at any time.

Myth 9: If I choose hospice care, I cannot change my mind.

Reality: After beginning hospice care, you can choose to stop at any time. If you decide to stop hospice care, you can re-enter later.

Myth 10: All hospice programs are the same.

Reality: All hospice programs are required to provide core services. Methodist Hospice chooses to provide additional services such as doctor home visits and intravenous (IV) fluids, medication and nutrition.

Myth 11: If my loved one does not have artificial hydration or nutrition, he or she will starve.

Reality: Not eating and drinking is a natural part of the dying process. Dehydration is not painful, and may help to relieve some symptoms, such as pain or anxiety.

Myth 12: If I live longer than six-months after entering the hospice program, I’m no longer eligible for hospice care.

Reality: After six months, your hospice physician will determine continued eligibility or discharge. If a physician determines hospice is appropriate, you may be readmitted to the hospice program.

Myth 13: I have to be homebound to receive hospice care.

Reality: Hospice does not require a patient to remain homebound. We encourage patients to enjoy life by continuing to participate in their normal activities, family life, trips or vacations.

Myth 14: If I enter a hospice program, I cannot participate in curative treatments or clinical trials.

Reality: You may choose at any time to pursue a curative or alternative treatment. You will stop hospice care, and when the treatment is complete, you may be readmitted to the hospice program.

Myth 15: I must sign a DNR (Do Not Resuscitate) to be eligible for hospice care.

Reality: Methodist Hospice does not require a DNR in order to be eligible for hospice care.

Myth 16: If I leave my personal residence to move in with family or into a long-term care facility, I cannot receive hospice care.

Reality: Hospice can provide home services to you if you live with family or in a contracted long-term care facility.

Myth 17: Once I enter hospice care, I will no longer be able to receive my current medications.

Reality: Hospice will not take away your medications. Nurses will review your current medications with you and your caregivers; your physician may recommend stopping any that are no longer needed. Medications necessary to manage pain and other symptoms related to your condition will be provided at no charge. You always have the option of paying for other particular medicines.

More Information

If you have questions about hospice care, please call Methodist Hospice at 901.516.1600.