Common Misconceptions Prevent Full Hospice Benefits
We’ve been spending the last couple of months exploring why hospice stay lengths have been declining nationwide, despite an increase in the number of patients receiving care. In a previous post we examined how – in an effort to prevent fraud – Medicare hospice coverage guidelines changed. And as a result, may be causing some doctors to wait longer before referring patients to hospice care. In this post, we’ll look at how misconceptions about hospice care might be preventing patients or their families from seeking care until the very end. And how the patients ultimately pay the price.
No Need to Wait
A recent article in Kaiser Health News cuts to the core of this issue. For many Americans, the word hospice care still means “brink-of-death” care. And as a result, they don’t really begin to consider the hospice option until they or their loved one is in the midst of a health crisis. But in reality, hospice can be of great benefit to patients with months left to live. In fact, “new research confirms that hospice patients report better pain control, more satisfaction with their care and fewer deaths in the hospital or intensive care units than other people with similarly short life expectancies.” So, according to hospice professionals and new research, there’s really no need for terminal patients to wait before entering hospice. But unfortunately, lingering misconceptions still get in the way.
Perception Doesn’t Match Reality
The article goes on the examine a few of the more common misunderstandings about hospice care. Some believe that entering hospice care means they’ll be dying alone in some forsaken medical facility. When in fact, 94% of hospice patients receive care in their own homes. Some who do understand the concept of in-home hospice, worry they’ll be taking on a live-in nurse. In reality, most home care consists of a few weekly visits from nurses or other care staff. Other potential patients think they’ll lose access to their own trusted primary care physicians, but many hospice programs prefer working with the professionals who really know the patient.
Perhaps most importantly, many people believe that by accepting hospice care, they’ll be spending their final precious days in a drugged-out stupor. In fact, it’s quite the opposite:
“There’s a misconception that you’re going to be medicated to a highly sedated state in hospice,” said Dr. Christopher Kerr, chief executive officer and chief medical officer for Hospice Buffalo Inc. in upstate New York. “The reality is our primary goal is to increase quality wakefulness. Managing these medications is an art and we’re good at it.”
The goal of hospice care is not to simply sedate terminal patients until they pass. Instead, hospice care is a team of medical professionals working together to increase their patient’s quality of life. And those are benefits that should be available to patients who may not be on the brink of death.
Our Mission is to Educate
What’s clear, is that in despite of its increasing popularity, hospice care remains a mystery to many Americans. And as a result, many patients experiencing an end-of-life transition are missing out on the the benefits hospice care can provide. If you have questions about the hospice care process, cost coverage, or eligibility requirements, we’d love to talk to you. Southland Hospice serves the greater Phoenix area and we’ve made it our mission to educate the public – and the greater medical community – about the benefits hospice brings its patients. So give us a call at (602)-497-4100 or fill out our contact page and we’ll get back to you right away. Help is available during this difficult time, and there’s no reason you or your loved one should wait any longer than necessary.