5 Facts About Hospice Care

Just what is hospice care? Though the number of people receiving care in hospice has been on the rise (1.72 million Medicare beneficiaries received hospice care in 2020), there are still many misconceptions that linger about just what it is and who could benefit from it.

Here are the answers to some frequently asked questions to help you separate facts from fiction:

What is hospice?
Hospice is a philosophy of care for those near the end of life, not a particular location, so it can be delivered anywhere that is home to you or your loved one. You can receive hospice care at home, or a skilled nursing or residential care facility, according to the Washington State Hospice & Palliative Care Organization. The purpose of hospice care is to manage pain and relieve symptoms.

How are referrals made?
A patient’s physician will usually make the referral, but families can contact hospice directly.

How does someone qualify for hospice care?
Hospice is appropriate when a patient is willing to stop treatment aimed at curing a terminal illness, their doctors agree those treatments are no longer working, and that the patient has six months or less to live, as the Oregon Hospice and Palliative Care Association explains.

Is entering hospice ‘giving up’?
According to the Hospice Foundation of America, the goal of the care is to provide comfort and dignity at life’s end. It is not giving up, but giving “something more” for someone who has been told nothing else can be done. And, patients who choose palliative care (care aimed at treating symptoms but not curative) sometimes live longer (with certain conditions) than those who don’t enter hospice. As a side note, palliative care can be a part of hospice, but though related, they are not the same.

Is hospice for the dying only, just for elderly or those with cancer?
According to the American Hospice Foundation, hospice is available to people of all ages, though the majority are older. Twenty percent of hospice patients are under 65. More than half have diagnoses other than cancer.

You can learn more about hospice care from the National Association for Home Care & Hospice and the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization.

Photo by Albert Rafael

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