Myths and Facts

Myths and Facts About Hospice

Myth: Hospice only provides care for people diagnosed with cancer.
Fact
: Hospice provides care for seriously ill individuals and their loved ones regardless of diagnosis.

Myth: Hospice care is for individuals who are very close to death.
Fact
: An early referral to our program enables individuals and families to fully benefit from our services and support. If you think you or a loved one might benefit from hospice services, feel free to call us.

Myth: Hospice patients must be home bound.
Fact
: Patients need not be home bound to receive services. We help patients to be as active as possible.

Myth: Choosing hospice means the patient no longer receives treatments or therapies.
Fact
: Treatments or therapies may be administered to provide comfort care. When appropriate patients receive care and treatment such as physical therapy, massage therapy and music therapy in an effirt to maximize their functioning and quality of life.

Myth: Hospice provides care only for patients.
Fact
: Hospice also focuses attention on the patient's family. Emotional and spiritual support as well as caregiver education and volunteer services are geared to meet the needs of loved ones.

Myth: Only senior citizens can receive hospice services.
Fact
: Hospice care is available for people of all ages - infants, children, adults and seniors.

Myth: Hospice patients can no longer see their own physician.
Fact
: Hospice encourages patients’ physicians to follow the patient and participate in their care.

Myth: Accepting hospice care means that hope is lost.
Fact
: Hope for cure is transformed to hope for comfort, acceptance and peace.

Myth: Hospice care is only for those with private insurance.
Fact
: Hospice serves everyone, regardless of ability to pay. Community hospice care is fully covered under Medicare, Medicaid and most private insurance plans.

Myth: Hospice patients must have a DNR (Do Not Resuscitate) order in place in order to receive services.
Fact
: There is NO requirement for a patient to have a DNR order except at the Joe Raso Hospice Residence.

Myth: Once someone is admitted onto the hospice program, they cannot leave.
Fact
: Individuals can choose to discontinue hospice services at any time.

Myth: Hospice staff encourages the use of morphine for all hospice patients.
Fact
: Morphine is often used to control pain or shortness of breath. Not all patients experience these symptoms. Each person’s symptoms are controlled in consultation with their physician in a way that works best for them.

Myth: Dying is painful.
Fact: You should not assume that pain will occur. Many people experience no pain whatsoever. If someone's condition does cause pain, it will be assessed by members of the team and treated appropriately.

Myth: If someone doesn't eat, they should get a feeding tube or they will starve to death.
Fact: The needs of the body and its ability to take in and process food changes as one nears the end of life. People do not die because they are not eating; they do not eat, because they are dying. Complications due to forced feeding and/or the use of tube feedings can actually hasten dying. (The site of the feeding tube can become infected. Feedings can back up in the tube and enter the lung causing aspiration pneumonia. Some individuals will pull at the tube, sometimes resulting in their hands be restrained or pull it out.) Individuals who are not eating may become more comfortable as endorphins (the body's natural pain killers) are released and promote an increased sense of well-being and comfort

Myth: Not drinking causes painful dehydration.
Fact: At the end of life, natural dehydration causes the release of endorphins which promote comfort. Unlike in a healthy person, or during an illness from which someone is expected to recover, providing artificial fluids near the end of life may actually increase discomfort. Natural dehydration results in less chance of nausea, vomiting, swelling and lung congestion.  Good oral care prevents any discomfort.

Myth: If I don't make use of every possible technology available, or if I tell the doctor to stop using machines to keep me or my loved one alive, I am essentially killing myself or him/her.
Fact: It is the illness that will cause your/your loved one's death, not the decision to forego further treatment or extraordinary measures. Some people view the use of machines as prolonging death rather than sustaining life. Just because there are more treatments or extraordinary measures available, it does not mean it is the always the best of most appropriate care.

Myth: If the person who is ill is allowed to stay in bed or sleep as much as they want, they are giving up and will die sooner.
Fact: Energy diminishes throughout an illness. To push people beyond their natural limits, will not strengthen them and may further deplete what little energy they have left, thus putting increased strain in their already fatigued body.

Myth: People should be conscious until the moment of death. If they are confused, less alert or sleeping more, they are being over-medicated.
Fact: The dying process almost always causes the person to sleep more until they drift into a coma. Sleepliness and possible confusion are often due to natural chemical and metabolic changes in the body as it begins to shut down and they occur even when a person is not taking ANY medications at all. The goal of proper management of the medication will be to keep you or your loved one pain free, minimize adverse symptoms.  We never attempt to hasten the dying process.

Myth: Narcotic pain medications will cause loss of control or even hasten death.
Fact: The goal of medicating pain is to give you or your loved one better quality of life, providing rest and therefore more energy to do things. Inadequate pain control can harm the body causing sleeplessness, inability to eat, immobility, withdrawal from socialization. Pain can hasten dying due to damage from stress hormones or an increased risk of clots. The goal of properly prescribed medications is not to hasten death but rather to keep you or your loved comfortable during the dying process.

Myth: It's too late to say goodbye if the dying person cannot respond or is in a coma.
Fact: Research has shown that people can hear and even benefit from touch until their final breath. The presence of familiar people may serve as a source of comfort. Now is the time for reminiscing, tender holding, stroking their face, telling them what they meant to you, letting them know you will be sad but OK when they die, apologizing, thanking them and saying goodbye.

Myth: If I am not there when my loved one dies, I failed them in some way.
Fact: There are no clear indications of exactly when someone will die. We have seen people seem to wait for someone to arrive before dying and we have seen people seem to wait till someone/everyone leaves the room before they die. Do not be hard on yourself if you are not there when your loved one dies. Their knowledge of your love and caring, not your physical presence, is what is most important.