November is National Hospice Month. Lake Regional encourages everyone to learn more about this care that enables people to live as fully as possible despite a life-limiting illness.
“Hospice addresses the whole range of physical and emotional needs of a patient with a life-limiting illness and the patient’s loved ones,” said April Jeffries, R.N., BSN, Lake Regional Hospice program coordinator. “But sadly, we see many people delay hospice care because they believe the myths about what hospice is and isn’t.”
Here, Jeffries corrects four common misconceptions about hospice.
Myth: Hospice means giving up.
Enrolling in hospice does not mean giving up hope or all treatment. Hopes may shift and change, and the hospice team will be there to support patients and families with these changes while managing their symptoms.
“Hospice is all about quality of life and making the most of time with loved ones,” Jeffries said. “If families see hospice as admitting defeat, they might not consider it until their loved one has uncontrolled symptoms or is near death. Although hospice will provide care at these times, patients and families benefit more when hospice services begin earlier.”
Studies show that people have improved quality of life and actually live longer in hospice care. This is because many symptoms, such as pain, are better controlled. Also, problems that might have led to an emergency room visit or hospitalization can be managed at home with support from the experienced hospice team.
Myth: Hospice is only available in a person’s home or the hospital.
Hospice isn’t a specific place; rather, it is a type of care that medical professionals deliver to patients.
“While hospice is primarily provided in the home or the home of a loved one, it is also available in nursing homes, assisted living facilities, hospitals or hospice facilities,” Jeffries said.
Myth: All hospice care providers are the same.
All hospice care providers that participate with Medicare must meet the same basic requirements, but some hospice providers far exceed minimum requirements.
“At Lake Regional Hospice, we always commit to providing exceptional care for each and every patient and their families,” Jeffries said. “All our nurses have either earned or are working toward certification from the Hospice and Palliative Credentialing Center as a certified hospice and palliative nurse. We are also Joint Commission accredited.”
In addition, Lake Regional operates both home health and hospice programs. Staff members are cross-trained in both areas, so if a patient moves from home health to hospice, Lake Regional can continue their care with the same caregivers they have come to know and trust.
Myth: You can’t receive medical care in hospice or keep your doctor.
In hospice, a patient is foregoing curative treatment, but a wide range of medical services still remain. The goal of hospice is to improve quality of life by providing comfort and symptom management, including pain control.
Upon enrolling in hospice, each patient’s care team, which includes their primary care provider, develops a plan that addresses the whole range of physical and emotional needs of the patient and the patient’s loved ones. This plan includes the frequency of hospice visits and which services are provided.
“We provide so much more than nursing services and medical care,” Jeffries said. “We also provide personal care, counseling services and additional assistance. We have a team of doctors, nurses, aides, social workers, chaplains, and, when needed, physical, occupational and speech therapists who deliver hospice care.”