Educating Our Community

Common Hospice myths for patients and families

Myth:   Hospice is only for people with cancer.

Fact:      In the past, hospice was designed to primarily support patients with cancer.  Recent statistics demonstrate an increasing number of patients with a diagnosis other than cancer electing to utilize their hospice benefit.  Medicare has guidelines to help define hospice prognosis indicators for non-cancer patients.

Myth:   Hospice is a place.

Fact:      Hospice is a philosophy, a state of mind and an interdisciplinary approach to end-of-life care. Hospice is tailored to care for the patients wherever they call home.

Myth:   A patient must be a DNR (Do Not Resuscitate) in order to be on Hospice.

Fact:      Many Hospices require their patients to be a DNR in order to elect their hospice benefit, Hospice of the West does not require their patients to sign a DNR prior to electing their benefit.

Myth:   Hospice means giving up hope.

Fact:      Deciding to receive hospice services does not mean giving up hope. Hospice is about redefining the patient’s goals. The hope may have switched from curing the illness, to the hope of living life to its fullest. Once a patient is receiving hospice services they sometimes will feel a better sense of overall well being. From being involved in the day to day decisions of their plan of care, to relief from pain and symptoms, to having the continued support for themselves and their families, patients are able to live life of a higher quality with a terminal illness.

Myth:   Physicians are the only ones who can refer a patient for hospice services.

Fact:      Hospice is an elected benefit and anyone who wishes can self refer.  It is not necessary to have your physician refer you for an evaluation. Hospice of the West would like to work with your physician if it is decided that you or your loved one is eligible for hospice services, and choose to receive services, or our Medical Directors can oversee your care if you do not have a primary physician.

Myth:   Hospice only provides for the patient.

Fact:      The Interdisciplinary team cares not only for the patient and their immediate medical needs, they offer psychosocial support and spiritual support as well. The family is included in the support, along with help to find community resources, advance care planning and many other areas of need. Bereavement services are also offered, regardless of whether it is in regards to the current patient or not.

Myth:   Once a patient elects hospice services, they cannot go back to seeking aggressive treatment.

Fact:      The hospice philosophy is one that seeks comfort care (symptom management) vs. curative treatment. Should a patient decide that they would like to go back to seeking aggressive, curative care, they may revoke their hospice benefit. Should the patient want to return to hospice care in the future, they have the option of being readmitted and receiving services again.

How is a Non-profit different from a For-profit Hospice?

The regulations are identical. All licensed and certified hospices must comply with state law and the Code of Federal Regulations. In addition, Medicare’s reimbursement rate is fixed regardless of the care needs, the services, or the tax status of the hospice. Essentially, both a non-profit and for-profit make a profit. The difference lies within where additional funds are applied, the size of the hospice, and the personable and compassionate level on which the hospice employees operate.  

Joanne Fritz writes in Guide:

  • Non-profit organizations can and do make a profit, but it must be used solely for the operation of the organization or, in the case of a foundation, granted to other non-profit organizations.
  • A non-profit does not pay taxes, but it also cannot use its funds for anything other than the mission for which it was formed.
  • A for-profit organization has owners and/or shareholders that pay taxes on the profit.
  • When a for-profit organization discontinues business, its assets can be liquidated and the proceeds distributed to the owners or the shareholders. When a nonprofit goes out of business, its remaining assets must be given to another nonprofit.
  • Every hospice has to budget carefully, especially in this time of impending cuts to the Medicare reimbursement plan. It is, however, admirable to run a hospice agency with financial finesse and excellent patient care – whether you’re for profit or non-profit (2012).