November as National Hospice Month presented Delaware Hospice an opportunity to honor the dedicated healthcare professionals and volunteers who selflessly care for patients and families. It also offered an occasion to dispel common misperceptions that surround hospice care, which prevent many who need this care from making the call for help.
Clarifying these misunderstandings might open the door to helping families who are overwhelmed with caring for a loved one with a serious illness.
Myth 1: Hospice is only for people with cancer. Actually, less than half of Delaware Hospice’s patients have a cancer diagnosis. Individuals with any serious, life-limiting illness can receive hospice care, including heart disease, kidney disease, COPD, and dementia.
Myth 2: Calling hospice is relinquishing control. Delaware Hospice’s focus is to partner with the patient and family to design a plan of care that will improve quality of life according to each individual's and family’s wishes, choices and needs.
Myth 3: Hospice is only for people who are dying. Admittance to a hospice program requires a physician’s prognosis of life expectancy of six months or less. However, with expert symptom management and multidisciplinary care, patients’ conditions sometimes improve under hospice care. Quality of life at the end of life is Delaware Hospice’s goal.
Myth 4: Only a physician can make a referral to Delaware Hospice. Anyone, even the patient, may call to ask about programs and services or eligibility. Staff members will arrange to meet with the patient and family to provide information or assess the situation.
Myth 5: It is best to wait until the last minute to call hospice. Unfortunately, patients and families frequently contact Delaware Hospice too late to take full advantage of what hospice care offers. Earlier admissions allow time for better pain and symptom management, and emotional support and education for caregivers from hospice experts.
Myth 6: Children cannot be referred to Delaware Hospice. Hospice care is for all ages and all diseases. Delaware Hospice also offers the New Hope Program to support children who are grieving over the loss of a loved one.
Myth 7: Clients must leave the care of their doctors and move to a Delaware Hospice physician. The client’s physician remains involved with care, collaborating with Delaware Hospice’s medical director and nurses through the entire plan of care.
Myth 8: Clients must agree to a Do Not Resuscitate order to be in hospice care. Patients receiving Delaware Hospice’s services may choose to be resuscitated or may choose DNR. Hospice care team members do encourage each patient to complete an Advance Care Directive to ensure his or her choices for care are clearly communicated.
Myth 9: Heavy doses of drugs are administered to hospice patients. Delaware Hospice’s specialized nurses carefully monitor the medications of each patient with his or her physician and the Delaware Hospice medical director to find the optimal balance of comfort and alertness which will allow the patient to get the most out of every day.
Myth 10: There is only one hospice in Delaware. There are several hospice providers in the state of Delaware. Delaware Hospice was founded in 1982 by a grassroots committee of concerned clergy and healthcare professionals. Delaware Hospice reinvests in its community in many ways, including offering care programs for seriously ill individuals who are not hospice appropriate, such as the Transitions Program, grief support programs, including New Hope for children and teens, and educational workshops and conferences.
For more information about Delaware Hospice, call 800-838-9800 or go to www.delawarehospice.org.