Hospice is a difficult subject for us to discuss as patients or family. It is viewed as the final option and a way to ease death. Though this is not completely inaccurate, it also doesn’t include all of the facts. The hospice service is a Medicare entitlement and is extremely underutilized as a result of misconceptions. I would like to address some of the many concerns and myths I hear when discussing hospice with families and even healthcare professionals.
It is believed by some that hospice care is primarily for patients suffering from various forms of cancer. Although cancer which is resistant to treatment or for which patients refuse curative measures does qualify a patient for hospice, this is not the only time a person may benefit from hospice services. Any progressive disease process for which there is no cure qualifies a patient for hospice. These could include, but may not be limited to advanced stages of the following: heart disease, lung disease, Alzheimer’s, dementia, stroke, Parkinson’s, ALS, AIDS, kidney disease, liver disease, and extreme weight loss. With all of these conditions, the focus becomes management of symptoms and complications. Our goal through hospice is to optimize comfort and symptom control as to allow the patient to live their life the way they choose.