Tag Archives: end of life

Our Loved Ones are Important to Us

Because the quality of life of our loved ones is Important to us, so is this message…
7 Common Myths and Misconceptions about Hospice

Myths-and-Facts

 We are living longer.  That’s good news!  Most of us are no longer dying of acute infections and plagues.  More good news!  Unfortunately, the diseases that oftentimes consume us now tend to drag on for an extended period.  So, while living longer, we may not be living better – especially toward the end.  We know this to be true.  We don’t want to think about a time when our loved ones may no longer be with us.  By not thinking about it and by being uninformed or misinformed about the options as our loved ones get older or fall ill, we are doing a tremendous disservice to them, and to ourselves, if they are diagnosed with a terminal illness.  It’s truly tragic that hospice is seen as taboo and as something not to discuss because hospice is not the enemy.  The illness is.

If you or a love one face/have faced a terminal illness I am truly sorry for your suffering.  If you have used hospice services,  please comment and share your experience below.

Hospice’s sole purpose is to increase quality of life:  to comfort us and our loved ones, and to make everyone’s life easier and more fulfilling.  When the days of life are limited, hospice adds life to the remaining days.  When I was working for a hospice company, one patient (I refer to her as “The Entertainer”) chose no medication during the day so she could be as alert, active, and interactive as possible with her family and friends.  At night she threw out her arm and said “Let me have it!” as she tapped the inside of her elbow.  She slept through the night and started over the next morning.  Every experience is different because each is tailored to the patient, and every patient is unique.

In addition to the stigma surrounding hospice, there are also many MYTHS and MISCONCEPTIONS running rampant.  I address seven here.

1a     MYTH:  Hospice means everyone is giving up.

FACT:  It really means that caring people will work together to improve our quality of life physically, mentally, emotionally, socially, and spiritually with high quality palliative (comfort) care and symptom management.  A team of nurses, home health aides, clergy, social workers, volunteers, and others work together with the patient and their loved ones to create an individual plan with the sole purpose of supporting and comforting everyone involved.  Sometimes doctors hold off on recommending hospice because they don’t want to give the “giving up” message, but by opening up that line of communication early, the patient and family will reap the greatest benefit.

2e     MYTH:  Hospice is just for the last few days of life.  I’m not there yet.

FACT:  Hospice certainly helps people “die with dignity.”  It also has many advantages and services for up to the last six months of life, and sometimes longer.  Most patients and their caregivers miss out on very valuable services by waiting until the very end.  Earlier entry ensures comfort, support, and care that will add valuable life to our days.

3e     MYTH:  If a new treatment becomes available, it won’t be an option.

FACT:  Patients can be discharged from hospice whenever they choose to be, for any reason, and for any number of times.  If the new treatment doesn’t work, they can always return to hospice for excellent palliative care.

4c     MYTH:  Hospice is expensive.

FACT:  Hospice is covered by Medicare, Medicaid, and most major insurance companies.  All services, medication, and equipment related to the diagnosis are covered, sometimes with a copay (never over $5.00.)  This often saves the the patient a lot of money.

5h     MYTH:  Hospice is only for the elderly or cancer patients.

FACT:  Hospice is for any person in the end stages of life who is diagnosed with six or fewer months to live, although this can be extended as often as needed.

6g     MYTH:  The patient can no longer go to the hospital if needed.

FACT:  The purpose of palliative care is to minimize hospital visits and take care of the patient at home with qualified and caring staff.  This reduces everyone’s stress and the patient’s discomfort.  Hospital stays are always permitted when necessary.

7b     Myth:  The patients can’t keep their own doctor.

FACT:  The patient can certainly keep their own doctor if they choose to.  The hospice doctor will work closely with him or her on their behalf.

PLEASE, for your the sake of your loved ones, don’t let the stigma of hospice cloud their judgement.  Learn about it now, so you can help them understand it if/when the time comes.  Hospice can add valuable life to their days.

For more information on hospice, visit:  Medicare and the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization.

I’m dying to clear up some misconceptions.

 

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Live more fully, right up to the end.

Why are we so afraid of death?  We know for certain that it’s coming, don’t we?  I don’t know of anyone who has escaped it.  Cheated it a few times, certainly, but in the end we all succumb.  Why the heck am I talking about death on a health and wellness blog?!  I am dedicated to being that little drop that causes a ripple that helps everyone to live with a better quality of life.  So I ask you to please read on.  This is, I believe, a very important post.

We know death is permanent.  We know there will be a tremendous sense of loss when a loved one dies.  Quite often we are just not ready to accept it, or our doctors or loved ones are not ready to “give up.”  But by accepting the inevitable once the time comes, and embracing it, we can finish our days in comfort and dignity, surrounded by loved ones.  Isn’t that what we all want?

Hospice.  The word makes people turn away.  The word itself is taboo.  It means “I’m going to die,” they say.  Hospice care is extremely misunderstood.  Hospice comes into play after we have already learned that our life is coming to a close.  It does not invoke death.  It does not bring it on sooner.  It is not meant to prolong life either.   It has one purpose and one purpose alone.  Comfort.  Hospice serves the whole patient and that includes their loved ones.

I feel so blessed to have had the opportunity to work for a hospice company.  It was such a wonderful learning experience.  I had a very narrow belief that hospice is “for people who are dying,” and that hospice is called in “during the last few days of life.”  I had no idea how wrong I was.

Hospice is a philosophy that utilizes palliative healthcare along with an interdisciplinary team to take care of the entire terminally ill patient; physically, spiritually, emotionally, and socially.  Hospice offers specially trained doctors, nurses, social workers, home health aides, non-denominational clergy, volunteers, and much, much more.  It aids the caregivers and loved ones in much the same way, including support with difficult and confusing matters and with respite care, as well as bereavement counseling.

Death Quote

We often see death as “a painful truth.”  But hospice is designed to help us through that difficult time.   Hospice services can be used for six months (sometimes longer), saving us money on medical supplies, equipment, and medication, and possibly most importantly allowing the patient to stay comfortable in their own surroundings without expensive and painful trips to the hospital.

Hospice is all about palliative care, about comfort.   It is about adding life to the days when there are no more days to be added to life.  For a comprehensive overview of what hospice is and what it does, see:  Medicare Hospice Benefits.  The majority of hospices are Medicare certified and provide all of these services as needed.

Bottom line:  Please reconsider your beliefs and preconceptions about hospice so that when the unfortunate time comes when you or a loved-one is going to be leaving us, you can help them to live more fully and with dignity right up until the end.

This has been a short overview of what hospice is.  I hope to write another on some of the common myths and misconceptions that prevent people from utilizing this phenomenal resource in the near future.

I welcome your story in the comments section.  Do you have experience with hospice?  Will you share it with us?