Each November, hospice organizations around the world celebrate National Hospice and Palliative Care Month. You might wonder why I chose the word “celebrate” in conjunction with this annual observance — but in fact, there is much to celebrate about hospice, which provides comfort, compassion, dignity and support to patients and families who are facing a life-limiting illness. Hospice allows families to share meaningful, valuable time together by improving quality of life for the patient, and encouraging open and honest communication.
At Hospice of Scotland County, we are grateful to serve local families each and every day. As the only not-for-profit hospice based in Scotland County, it is our goal to provide excellent end-of-life care to those who need it, regardless of their ability to pay. Concerns about billing, and many other myths, frequently scare people away from talking about or even considering hospice care. As part of National Hospice and Palliative Care Month, we’d like to dispel a few of the myths we frequently hear, and encourage you to think about someone you might know who could benefit from hospice care:
Myth: Hospice care is expensive, and I probably can’t afford it.
Fact: As a not-for-profit hospice, we provide care to any person who meets the medical guidelines to receive hospice care, regardless of their ability to pay. We do not take away people’s homes or garnish wages. We bill for our services through the patient’s private insurance, Medicare or Medicaid. If someone does not have insurance or qualify for Medicare or Medicaid, and does not have the financial resources to pay for care, we work with them. Ultimately, if a patient cannot pay for care, we will write off that cost. The generosity of our donors and the local community, as well as our fundraising efforts, helps us provide this charity care.
Myth: If I accept hospice care, it means I have given up and there is no hope.
Fact: Hospice is about having the best quality of life for however long life remains. Choosing hospice care does not mean giving up hope or that death is near. The earlier someone chooses hospice care, the sooner distressing symptoms such as pain, difficulty breathing and weakness can be controlled.
Myth: Hospice is only for the last few days of life.
Fact: Hospice patients and families are entitled to care for six months or longer, depending on the course of the illness. Hospice care is most beneficial when there is enough time to manage symptoms and to develop a trusting relationship between the hospice staff and families.
Myth: Hospice is just for people who have cancer.
Fact: This is no longer true. In the early days of hospice care, most patients had cancer, but we have come to realize that hospice is beneficial for patients with other diseases and conditions, such as heart disease, liver disease, COPD, emphysema and many others. Hospice care is also available for people who suffer from brain and nervous system diseases, such as Alzheimer’s Disease and ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease). Call us for questions about a friend or loved one’s condition; we may be able to help.
Myth: Hospice care won’t allow me or my family to be involved in making decisions about treatment.
Fact: Hospice puts patients and families at the center of the care-planning process. Members of the hospice team will provide information and guidance, but ultimately, it is the patient and family who call the shots about treatment decisions. The focus of hospice care is to provide comfort for the patient and family, and the individual beliefs and preferences of each patient and family are respected and honored by hospice staff.
Myth: Hospice patients are given a drug or shot that causes them to die.
Fact: Hospice care does not do anything to speed up or slow down the natural process of dying. There is no such shot given to hospice patients. In fact, several studies have shown that patients receiving hospice care actually live longer than those who do not, because of excellent symptom management and the expertise of the hospice staff.
David Hibbard is Director of Public Relations at Hospice of Scotland County. For more information about hospice care, call 276-7176 or visit www.scotlandhospice.org.