University Health Care System
(706) 722-9011

Hospice Myths & Realities

Myth: Hospice is a place.
Reality: Hospice care usually takes place in the comfort of an individual's home, but can be provided in any environment in which a person lives, including a nursing home, assisted living facility or residential care facility.

Myth: Hospice means that the patient will soon die.
Reality: Receiving hospice care does not mean giving up hope or that death is imminent. The earlier an individual receives hospice care, the more opportunity there is to stabilize a patient's medical condition and address other needs.

Myth: Hospice is only for cancer patients.
Reality: A large number of hospice patients have congestive heart failure, Alzheimer's disease or dementia, chronic lung disease, or other conditions.

Myth: Hospice provides 24-hour care.
Reality: The hospice team (which includes nurses, social workers, home health aides, volunteers, chaplains and bereavement counselors) visits patients intermittently, and is available 24 hours a day/7 days a week for support and care. Some hospices are able to provide "continuous care," but hospices must have a program in place for this to happen and hospice patients must meet certain criteria.

Myth: All hospice programs are the same.
Reality: All licensed hospice programs must provide certain services, but the range of support services and programs may differ. In addition, hospice programs and operating styles may vary from state to state depending on state laws and regulations. Some programs are not-for-profit and some hospices are for-profit. University is Augusta's only not-for-profit hospice.

Myth: A patient needs Medicare or Medicaid to afford hospice services.
Reality: Although insurance coverage for hospice is available through Medicare and in most states under Medicaid, most private insurance plans, HMOs, and other managed care organizations include hospice care as a benefit. In addition, through community contributions, memorial donations, and foundation gifts, many hospices are able to provide patients who lack sufficient payment with free services.

Myth: A physician decides whether a patient should receive hospice care and which agency should provide that care.
Reality: The role of the physician is to recommend care, whether hospice or traditional curative care. It is the patient's right (or in some cases the right of the person who holds power of attorney) and decision to determine when hospice is appropriate and which program suits his or her needs. Before entering a hospice, however, a physician must certify that a patient has been diagnosed with a terminal illness and has an anticipated life expectancy of six months or less.

Myth: To be eligible for hospice care, a patient must already be bedridden.
Reality: Hospice care is appropriate at the time of the terminal prognosis, regardless of the patient's physical condition. Many of the patients served through hospice continue to lead productive and rewarding lives. Together, the patient, family and physician determine when hospice services should begin.

Myth: After six months, patients are no longer eligible to receive hospice care through Medicare and other insurances.
Reality: According to the Medicare hospice program, services may be provided to terminally ill Medicare beneficiaries with a life expectancy of six months or less. However, if the patient lives beyond the initial six months, he or she can continue receiving hospice care as long as the attending physician recertifies that the patient is terminally ill. Medicare, Medicaid, and many other private and commercial insurances will continue to cover hospice services as long as the patient meets hospice criteria of having a terminal prognosis and is recertified with a limited life expectancy of six months or less.

Myth: Once a patient elects hospice care, he or she cannot return to traditional medical treatment.
Reality: Patients always have the right to reinstate traditional care at any time, for any reason. If a patient's condition improves or the disease goes into remission, he or she can be discharged from a hospice and return to aggressive, curative measures, if so desired. If a discharged patient wants to return to hospice care, Medicare, Medicaid and most private insurance companies and HMOs will allow readmission.

Myth: Patients can only receive hospice care for a limited amount of time.
Reality: The Medicare benefit and most private insurance pays for hospice care as long as the patient continues to meets the criteria necessary. Patients may come on and off hospice care, and re-enroll in hospice care, as needed. 

Reviewed: 8-8-11
Updated: 8-8-11

  
     
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1350 Walton Way, Augusta, Georgia
(706) 722-9011