This year marks 25 years that I have been working in healthcare. Although I am not clinically licensed, I have been honored to work in many different support roles within the healthcare arena. None have been more rewarding and enlightening than my current position as Outreach Manager for Hosparus Health Green River (HGR).
When I began educating my local community and healthcare providers about hospice and palliative care just over five years ago, I discovered some barriers to getting referrals. Initially, I thought fear was the No. 1 reason people did not seek hospice care at the end of life — fear of what would happen if they gave up treatment, or just fear of the unknown.
Fear was the reason local hospitals, doctors, nursing homes and home healthcare agencies provided when our HGR team questioned why so many people in our community who would have qualified for the hospice benefit were dying without accessing our supportive care.
After a short while of making our rounds and speaking with many healthcare providers individually, we began to realize that people simply were not aware of all the services that Hosparus Health provides. Some mistakenly assumed that their doctor, nursing home or home healthcare agency would tell them when it’s time to initiate their hospice benefit. While some providers might do that, you don’t have to wait for a doctor’s referral. Anyone can make the first call to us, including the patient themselves, a family member or other caregiver.
My team quickly determined that in order to increase the number of people who receive the gift of hospice and palliative care, we needed to not only educate our local healthcare providers, but also make it a priority to ensure that everyone in our community truly understands what hospice and palliative care can offer.
Knowing the Facts
A big piece of community education — and a large part of my job — is debunking the myths about hospice care and focusing on facts. Here are just a few of the most common misconceptions I’ve heard:
MYTH: Hospice care is only for cancer patients.
FACT: You might be surprised to learn that less than half of Hosparus Health’s patients have a diagnosis of cancer. Our advanced illness care includes patients with heart and lung disease, Alzheimer’s and dementia, stroke and many other conditions.
MYTH: Hospice care hastens death.
FACT: Hospice care neither prolongs or hastens death. In fact, several studies show that patients who receive hospice care actually live longer than those who don’t.
MYTH: Choosing hospice care means you are giving up.
FACT: In reality, hospice care offers hope — hope for comfort, compassion, freedom from the fears of isolation, abandonment, loneliness, loss of control and physical pain. Hospice also offers hope that the family will be nurtured and supported during their loved one’s illness, and also after their death. Families may receive grief support free of charge for up to 13 months after their loved one passes away.
Removing Barriers to Hospice Care
It’s important to note that hospice care is not about dying. It’s about helping people live to the fullest during the time they have left. Hosparus Health manages the pain and symptoms of serious illness, making patients as comfortable as possible. As a result, they are free to focus less on their disease and more on creating special memories with the people closest to them.
Hospice is also about taking control of your level of care. When someone elects their hospice benefit, they can stop at any time.
We know that when people have a clear understanding about hospice and palliative care before they need us, they are more likely to elect the benefit when they or a loved one is faced with a life-limiting illness. Being educated helps take the fear out of the decision-making process, and allows patients with chronic or terminal illness to live on their own terms.
Although I have seen an increase in how many people in the Green River access the gift of hospice since I joined Hosparus Health, there are still too many in our community who are missing out on the benefits of our care.
The fact is, people are dying whether hospice care is involved or not. The key is to make sure they fully understand their options. When families know the facts about hospice and palliative care, they can make confident decisions about what is best for them and their loved ones.
If you or a someone you know could benefit from our care, please call us 24/7 at 800-264-0521. For more myths and facts about hospice, click here.