Baystate Health print this page

Common Misconceptions about Hospice

There are many misconceptions regarding hospice care.  Hospice is not about ending care, it is caring to the end, focusing on providing comfort for the patient.  In addition to managing pain and symptoms for the patient, Hospice also addresses the emotional, social, and spiritual needs of the patient and their families.  

 

Some common misconceptions about hospice care include:

 

  • Hospice means the patient is giving up

Hospice is not giving up.  It is a choice to live life fully until the end.  A patient determines how they want to live their final months based on their own personal wishes, goals, and beliefs. 

 

  • Hospice is only for people with cancer

Hospice is for any patient with a chronic illness who has a life expectancy of six months or less if the disease progresses on its natural course.  Fewer than 50 percent of hospice patients have cancer.  Diagnosis for other patients may include end-stage diseases such as pulmonary, cardiovascular, neuromuscular, renal, liver, AIDS, Dementia, or Alzheimer’s.  Whatever the life-limiting illness, when the focus moves to comfort rather than cure, hospice may be appropriate.

 

  • Hospice accelerates death

Hospice neither prolongs life nor hastens death.  It centers on comfort measures.  By providing good pain and symptom management, hospice helps to improve the quality of life when days are numbered.

 

  • Hospice means the patient will die soon

When the focus shifts from cure to comfort, and the prognosis is six months or less should the disease progress on its natural course, a patient can start hospice care.  When hospice care is started early on, there is a better chance to keep pain and symptoms under control and stabilize one’s condition.  Some patients may improve when first put on hospice.  Patients may be on hospice for more than six months provided the prognosis remains the same.

 

  • The Hospice nurse stays with the patient 24 hours/day

Hospice care is provided by a team including the hospice medical director, registered nurses, medical social workers, hospice care aides, spiritual counselors, bereavement coordinators, and volunteers.  Care is delivered intermittently based on the needs of the individual patient.  While Hospice staff is on call 24 hours/day, they are not with the patient the entire time.

 

  • Hospice means the patient will have to give up their doctor

Hospice care is provided by an interdisciplinary team which includes the patient’s doctor as well as the Hospice Medical Director, hospice nurses, social workers, spiritual counselors, hospice care aides, and volunteers.