Updated: Jul 20, 2020
Here at Cabin Creek Marketing we strive to bring your information to help you save time and money on every day expenses. A bonus for us as nurses, we can bring you information that can help you save time and money navigating the maze of health care. We desire to bring you information to assist you in making health care decisions for yourself or an elder parent. As R.N.s that have worked in home health as well as Hospice, over the years we have heard many opinions both positive and negative regarding Hospice Care. Let’s look at some common misconceptions. Please complete the email contact form to receive the complete series on addressing the top 10 Misconceptions of Hospice. Please make a note in message section 10 Misconceptions of Hospice. Thanks!
1. Hospice is only for when you are actively dying.
2. Hospice nurses help to speed up the dying process.
3. People are left to suffer because “treatment” is no longer allowed.
4. The person would have to leave home in order to get hospice care.
5. Once you are on hospice you are stuck. What if I change my mind?
6. Hospice provides 24/7 care.
7. You must be dying of cancer to qualify for hospice.
8. Hospice must be expensive.
9. Hospice does not help my family.
10. Hospice means giving up all hope.
Let’s address each one and try to separate fact vs fiction for you. Medicare rules change often so we are giving you the most current information at the time of this writing. Today’s blog will focus on
Misconception Number #1
1. Hospice is only for when you are actively dying. This for me is the biggest barrier we face as Hospice Nurses. Yes, a physician must certify that you have a condition, illness, or disease that if you passed away in 6 months or less it would not be unexpected. With that being said, Cancer is not the only diagnosis that qualifies for hospice. We will address that later. The biggest mistake that I see, in my opinion, is that patient/families wait too long to explore the option of enrolling in hospice. Most, if not all Hospice Agencies can provide a consulting information only visit to explain what Hospice is all about with no obligation to sign on.
What happens is that when all else fails and treatment is no longer an option then and only then will people consider hospice. The problem with this is that many hospice enrollments are done in crisis mode during the last week to days before they pass. The family and patient are very distraught as having to accept their loved one is not going to survive their illness. Things get rushed and everyone scrambles to get the resources in place to begin hospice care. This is not the best-case scenario. If you find yourself or your parent in a situation where they have an illness or disease that is not curable the sooner your loved one enrolls in hospice the sooner hospice can begin focusing on living. That’s right, living. Hospice is a philosophy that no matter how many days you have left here on this earth hospice will help you live those days to the fullest. We are not nurses dressed in brown or black robes and carry a sickle and resemble the “grim reaper”. More often than not we are called Angels who have helped bring peace to our patients as well as gently preparing the family to begin the path of grieving.
I will give you an example of one of my past patients. We will call her Mary. Mary did not have cancer but she had a terminal illness. Mary lived in rural Midwest and her only daughter lived on the West Coast. Mary’s only wish was that she could see her daughter one more time before she passed. She had been on our service for about a year and we knew if she didn’t make the trip soon it would be too late. She kept putting off making arrangements and she finally shared that she could not afford to go. Her best friend agreed to accompany her on the trip and assist in caring for her. Mary’s wish was to travel by train. The problem was Mary did not have the funds to pay for the trip as well as how she was going to travel all that way with oxygen. Oxygen tanks were not an option. This was going to be a 10-day trip. As her hospice nurse you better believe I was going to move mountains to get her to her daughter. Her daughter had recently had some health challenges of her own and could not make the trip to see her mom. Mary had lost one other child already years ago.
Assembling all our resources and contacting agencies that would help fund the trip we were able to make it happen. Those last couple of months of planning Mary seemed to come alive with hope and excitement. She no longer was focusing on dying but she was focusing on getting to spend time with her daughter and grandchild. The trip went well but Mary returned home exhausted, as expected, but fulfilled. Mary passed 2 days later in our Hospice facility when she could no longer care for herself and did not have any family that could care for her at home those last couple of days. Mary had completed her goal and now she was ready for what she knew was coming for a long while. I will always remember Mary and the joy we were able to bring her during the last couple weeks of her life. Had we waited to get Mary onto hospice until her condition was such that it did not allow us to prepare to help her to the full extent of our capability, Mary may not have been able to make this trip. Hospice helps people live the best quality of life for as long as possible.
So, when considering Hospice, think about your loved one and what they want. As humans we are selfish creatures and we do not want to give up or loose our loved one. Do they want to continue to go back and forth to the doctor, back and forth to the hospital, under go treatments that that are making them so sick their quality of life is next to none? Please don’t get me wrong. If it is a fight they want to make and they continue to want to seek treatment by all means I encourage them to do so and do not want to take away their hope. All I am saying is please make sure that is what they want and not just the what the family wants. Have the courage to initiate the difficult conversation and find out what their wishes are before they cannot share them with you. We will address Living Wills and Health Care Power of Attorney during a later post as written documents that can be prepared ahead of time to address the patients wishes.
Having an informational visit prior to enrolling can help you and your family decide if hospice is right for you and if the disease or terminal illness qualifies you or your parent to begin hospice care.
We will discuss in another misconception but people can “graduate” from Hospice.
Thanks for joining us today. We look forward to serving you and watch for our next blog post in this category when we will discuss Hospice Misconception #2: Hospice Nurses Help Their Patients to Speed up the Dying Process. Click here to get on our mailing list. As always, we will never share your information with anyone!