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Dispelling Myths about Hospice Care by Janice Valentino

Despite the growth of hospice awareness, myths about hospice still are prevalent in our culture. These misconceptions contribute to many of patients and families not receiving the 180 day hospice benefit allowed under Medicare. Far too often, patients come on a hospice program for only a few weeks, days or even hours. This is unfortunate, since so many patients who are in need of expert pain and symptom control, as well as emotional, social, and spiritual support, does not receive them.

What are these myths that are so detrimental to the care of the dying?

Myth #1: Hospice Care Means Giving Up Hope

Choosing hospice care in no way means a patient is giving up hope. It may mean redefining hope.

Where a patient once hoped for a cure they may now hope to be pain-free. Hope for a patient may mean seeing a distant friend or relative one last time or taking the trip to the beach. Hope could be as simple as wanting to spend as much quality time with loved ones as possible or remaining at home rather than having to go to the hospital or a nursing home. Hope looks different in hospice care, but it is certainly not lost. The hospice team can help patients accomplish tasks, fulfill wishes and maintain hope.

Myth #2: Hospice Care Is Only for Cancer Patients

Though many hospice patients do have cancer, some of the most common non-cancer diagnoses in hospice are heart disease, dementia, lung disease, kidney disease, liver disease, vascular and neurological diseases as well as end stage Alzheimer’s and AIDS.

Myth #3: Hospice Care Is Only for Patients who are Close to Death or Actively Dying

Hospice care can be provided when a cure is no longer possible. The dying process takes time. Patients and their loved ones need support, information and medical care. Social workers and chaplains need time to work with patients and their loved ones to bring them to a place of acceptance. Nurses and doctors need time to get the patient's symptoms managed to ensure the highest quality of comfort. Dispelling these myths about hospice can bring us one step closer to providing quality, highly skilled care to patients at the end of life.

Janice Valentino works at Hospice of Orange & Sullivan Counties, Inc. which has office locations in Newburgh and Middletown and the Kaplan Family Hospice Residence in Newburgh. For more information, call 561-6111 or visit HospiceOfOrange.com.

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