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Hospice is unquestionably one of the greatest options in the last months of life because it offers a variety of benefits, not only to those of us who are dying, but also to those we leave behind.

The Medicare Hospice Benefit was established in 1983. This benefit is under Medicare A entitlements. The benefit encompasses not only the patient, but is designed to facilitate support to the family and/or caregivers as well. Medicare beneficiaries continue to utilize all of their Medicare services that are unrelated to the hospice diagnosis.

A patient may die in pain or may suffer from symptoms that could have been reduced or eliminated if they would have been enrolled in a hospice program.

Family, friends, and relatives may be missing emotional, psycho-social, and spiritual support through their mourning periods without the benefit of hospice care.

Myth #1: Hospice is a place.
Hospice care takes place wherever the hospice patient calls "home". This can be in their house, an Assisted Living Facility, or a Nursing Facility. Inpatient and Respite care can be provided in Nursing Facilities and Hospitals where Registered Nurses are available 24 hours a day.

Myth #2: Hospice is only for cancer patients.
Hospice care is for the patient with whom their attending physician has diagnosed as having a life-limiting illness. These diagnoses can include: End-Stage Liver Disease, End-Stage Renal Disease, End-Stage Alzheimer’s, Dementia, End-Stage Respiratory Diseases, End-Stage Cardiac Diseases, and many others not listed. Hospice is also provided to patients for Cancer diagnoses.

Myth #3: Hospice care is giving up.
Hospice affirms life and provides relief from pain and distressing symptoms. Hospice regards dying as a normal process, it neither hastens nor postpones death, a patient has a right to take control of their life.

Myth #4: Hospice is only for dying people.
As a family-centered concept of care, hospice focuses as much on the grieving family as on the dying patients. Hospice provides 13 months of bereavement care after the passing of a loved one, longer if needed.

Myth #5: Patients on Hospice get all their normal medications taken away.
A patient is seen by a Registered Nurse who speaks with the caregiver, family member, and patient. The hospice interdisciplinary team, the patient’s own physician and the Hospice Medical Director then decide which medication, if any, should be adjusted.

Myth #6: Hospice administers heavy duty medications that cause the patient to sleep all of the time.
Hospice employees cannot prescribe medications, only the patient's physician and/or the hospice medical director physician. Sometimes in the latter disease process a patient will sleep more with or without any medication. Hospice does everything possible to keep the patient as alert as possible while controlling their pain.

Myth #7: Hospice care is expensive.
Hospice accepts the Medicare/Medicaid rate of pay with no co-payment charged to the patient or the family for the hospice care. Also, Hospice does not charge for medications directly related to the hospice diagnosis for the management of pain and uncomfortable symptoms. The Medicare/Medicaid Hospice benefit also pays for durable medical equipment that is used for the hospice diagnosis as well as medical supplies. The family and/or patient do not have to send in any bills, Hospice does all of the billing necessary for the benefit. Note: Hospice does not pay for room and board in any assisted living or nursing facility for routine hospice care. This is the responsibility of the patient and or their family.

Myth #8: If the patient enrolls in hospice the patient may not keep the same physician.
Hospice patients continue with their same family physician or general practitioner. The Hospice Medical Director reviews the plan of care designed by the attending physician with the team’s input, he/she gives guidance to the team to provide additional comforting measures for the patient and their family/caregivers.

Myth #9: If the Hospice Patient’s life exceeds six months, the patient will be discharged from the hospice program.
The Medicare Hospice Benefit and most private insurances recognize that terminal illnesses do not have entirely predictable courses, therefore, the benefit is available for extended periods of time beyond six months provided that proper certification is made.

Myth #10: If a patient elects the Medicare/Medicaid Benefit they are forever locked into hospice care.
Medicare/Medicaid and Hospice allow choice. If for any reason a patient decides that they no longer wish to receive hospice services they may just sign a revocation statement canceling the services. They may choose hospice care again at a later date.