Sharon S. Richardson Community Hospice - Sheboygan, WI

Common Misconceptions About Hospice

(Sheboygan Press, MOXIE article by Angelia Neumann, Sharon S. Richardson Community Hospice Director of Development & Communications)

In the past month I’ve talked to hundreds of seniors about hospice.  All of them “knew” about hospice.  It was evident to me that each one had their own impression of hospice based on personal experiences or lack thereof.   Educating folks on a subject so closely linked to death is challenging because many don’t want to think about it.  But correcting misconceptions and sharing the facts will help us help others live fully.  Here are four common misconceptions that I hope you learn and share.

1. Hospice is a place people go to die.
Hospice is not a place.  It is a proven method of care that improves the quality of life for people with life-limiting illnesses.  The hospice patient’s needs are met through a partnership between the hospice team and the patient’s family or caregivers. 

People enrolled in a hospice program can receive care anywhere they live.  In order to receive hospice care at home, you must have a family member or another individual acting as your primary caregiver.  The hospice team will work with your family and your caregiver to manage symptoms and provide education and support.  If you live in a nursing home or assisted living facility, the facility staff act as your caregivers and any hospice provider you choose to work with will serve you and your caregivers at the facility.

2. Hospice is for cancer patients in the last days of their lives.
Hospice care is for anyone with a life-limiting diagnosis who is no longer seeking curative treatment.  Care can begin when there is a life expectancy of six months or less.  With hospice, the patient and family direct the care plan and alter it as needed.  The family and caregivers benefit the most when they have time to build relationships with the hospice team and learn how to meet the needs of their loved one.

3. My doctor will tell me if I need hospice.
Choosing hospice care is a very personal decision.  You do not need a doctor’s referral for a consultation. Some physicians struggle with when it is the right time to stop aggressive treatments. They don’t want their patients to feel like they are giving up on them.  But hospice is not about giving up.  It’s about making your own decisions and seeking the quality of life you desire.   It is never too soon to call for information regarding your options.

4. Hospice care is expensive.  Most people can’t afford it.
Hospice care is covered by Medicare, Medicaid, and most private insurance policies.  Sharon S. Richardson Community Hospice has a Patient Care Fund to assist individuals with no benefits and no ability to pay.

5. You have to be homebound to have hospice.
Not at all!  Hospice is about living fully.  Hospice providers do everything they can to help you feel your best and do the things that are important to you.  Recent research shows that those who enroll in hospice early live longer and have greater quality of life.