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Hospice Myths vs. Hospice Facts

Many people have misconceptions when it comes to hospice care. Unfortunately, these hospice misconceptions prevent patients and families from accessing essential care provided by a team of experts at the end of life.

Did you know that that hospice supports the entire family as well as the patient?

Did you know hospice isn’t just for the last few days of life?

Did you know hospice helps with physical, emotional, and spiritual needs?

If you answered “no,” you’re not alone! Most people don’t really know what hospice care is, how long it can last, or how it helps people.

Here are some common hospice myths and facts.

Hospice Myth:  

Hospice is a place.

Hospice Fact:

Hospice is not a place, but a form of high-quality care that focuses on comfort and quality of life near the end of life. Hospice care is provided where the patient is – whether at home, in an assisted-living or nursing-home facility, in the hospital, or in a specialized hospice center. Hospice care can begin when physicians feels the patient has up to six months to live if their illness follows its normal course. Hospice addresses the person’s physical, emotional, social, and spiritual needs, and those of their close family members or caregivers.

Samaritan serves people in their homes and other sites across five South Jersey counties.

We also operate two inpatient hospice centers, for people whose severe pain or other symptoms require intensive, short-term intervention.

Hospice Myth:           

Hospice means you’re giving up hope.

Hospice Fact:

Hospice does not mean giving up hope. This is a common hospice misconception. Rather, hospice helps patients and families shift their hopes and priorities. Hospice focuses on maximizing the person’s quality of life − based on their individual choices and preferences − so the person can live as fully as possible for as long as possible. In fact, hospice patients often live longer and have a better quality of life than people who choose aggressive end-of-life medical care, according to multiple studies. Many families are grateful for these precious days, weeks or months with their loved one, and for the knowledge that the person had a more peaceful death.

Hospice Myth:           

Hospice care is expensive.

Hospice Fact:              

Hospice is usually covered by insurance. Many hospice patients are over age 65 so they’re entitled to Medicare’s hospice benefit, which covers services in the plan of care including, nursing, social work, bereavement counseling, spiritual support, certified home health aides, medication, equipment, and supplies, and inpatient or respite care, if necessary. You may be responsible for a small co-payment.  More: Is hospice covered by Medicare? >>

In addition, hospice care is covered by Medicaid, the VA, HMOs, and many commercial insurers. A sliding scale is available and care is provided regardless of insurance coverage or ability to pay.
In addition, hospice typically provides medical supplies and equipment at no cost to the patient, including incontinence products, wound dressings, a hospital bed, commode, oxygen machine, and the like.  Click here to read more about hospice medical supplies and equipment >>

Hospice Myth:           

Once you choose hospice, you can’t change your mind.

Hospice Fact:

Patients can withdraw from hospice care at any time. For instance, a patient’s medical condition may improve, or they may decide to pursue curative treatment again. Patients can reapply for hospice benefits later, if needed.
Hospice Myth:

A patient should be referred to hospice only when he or she is very close to death.

Hospice Fact:

Patients can benefit from hospice care well before they are about to die. For the patient and family to receive the maximum benefits of hospice care, the patient should be referred once their physician feels life expectancy is six months or less if the disease follows its regular course.


“People frequently delay starting hospice care because they have misconceptions about it. Once they’re on hospice, many tell us they wish they called sooner.”

–Dr. Steven Goldfine, Chief Medical Officer


Hospice Myth:

Hospice focuses on death and dying.

Hospice Fact:

Hospice focuses on comfort, dignity and quality of life. Patients are encouraged to set and focus on current goals, enabling them to live each day to the fullest. Samaritan does not force people to talk about dying. Rather, our team members provide an opportunity to act as a sounding board and a safe haven for patients to discuss whatever is important to them. Patients are encouraged to find moments of peace and joy in each day; sometimes this may include saying good-bye to family members or doing a life review. Hospice’s goal is to focus on living, not on dying.

Hospice Myth:           

Hospice gives you a live-in caregiver.

Hospice Fact:              

Hospice provides periodic visits by professional caregivers, rather than live-in help. Samaritan’s staff is also available by phone 24/7 for guidance, support, and visits as needed. Hospice typically provides visits by doctors, nurses, home health aides, social workers, spiritual support counselors, and trained volunteers, based on the person’s individual needs as determined by the hospice nurse.

Some hospices, such as Samaritan, also provide the comfort of complementary therapies, including massage, music, pet, and aroma therapies as appropriate.

Hospice Myth:

Hospice care is only for people with cancer.

Hospice Fact:

Samaritan Hospice provides care for patients with any end-stage illness, including the final stages of heart disease, lung disease, dementia, stroke and coma, among others. We care for adults as well as children.

Hospice Myth:    

You must have a DNR (Do Not Resuscitate order) to receive services.

Hospice Fact:

You do not need a DNR to receive hospice services. Patients who want to receive cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) if their breathing or heart stops are eligible to receive Samaritan Hospice services. Since the advent of Advance Directives (such as living wills), a DNR order is not required. Samaritan hospice patients who wish to receive CPR are provided with the education and support needed to make informed decisions about this choice. (A DNR is a medical order written by a doctor before a medical crisis occurs. It instructs health care providers not to perform CPR if a patient’s breathing or heart stops. Many terminally ill people choose to have a DNR, as resuscitation can result in further injury and disability.)

Hospice Myth:

You cannot receive hospice services if you live alone.

Hospice Fact:

You can receive hospice services if you live by yourself. The hospice team uses secure lock boxes, special communications systems, and community resources to allow patients to maintain their independence at home.

Hospice Myth:

You must switch from your doctor to the hospice physician.

Hospice Fact:

Your personal physician continues to oversee your plan of care and is responsible for initial and follow-up orders of care. They work closely with the hospice nurse.

Hospice Myth:

If you are receiving hospice services, you cannot be hospitalized.

Hospice Fact:

Most hospice patients prefer to not go to the hospital and to remain in their own home.  If symptoms become unmanageable in the current setting, hospice can offer the inpatient level of care at one of our local inpatient centers or under contract with a skilled nursing facility.  Hospice may determine that the patient needs to go to the hospital and will make that decision with the patient and family.

Hospice Myth:                                                                                                                                                                           

Hospice care is the same as palliative care.

Hospice Fact:                                                                                                                                                                              

Hospice is a form of palliative care. Both hospice and palliative care focus on relieving pain and other symptoms of serious illness, and increasing comfort and quality of life. However, hospice is for patients whose prognosis is six months or less. Palliative care can be given at any time during the course of severe illness, starting at the time of diagnosis, and can occur alongside curative treatment. Learn more about hospice vs. palliative care >>

Do you or your loved ones have more hospice misconceptions, concerns or questions?

Let us know so we can address them: Call Samaritan at (800) 229-8183 fill out our online form.