The Top 5 Myths about Hospice Care

2010 September 6

When the word hospice comes up in conversation, it’s usually greeted with silence—especially from people whom have never experienced hospice care up close and personal.  Based on my own personal experiences with hospice, my role as a hospice volunteer, and my research on end-of-life communication, here are 5 myths about hospice care that you should be aware of:

(1)  Hospice is only for people who have lost their will to live. So completely wrong. Hospice care is for patients and family members who so believe in life and the importance of living every day that living comfortably and in peace is of the utmost importance. Unfortunately, we’ve reduced the ‘will to live’ only to living longer. Hospice care encourages patients and families to love and live in the present moment in as much comfort and peace as possible.

(2)  It’s too depressing to be around someone who is dying. “I wouldn’t be able to do it” and “Most people are stronger than me” are typical responses from those who believe professionals are the best (and only) equipped to be near dying.  Hospice professionals recognize that as a family member, you are never in the way. Your expertise as a loved one is always valued. After all, you don’t need a medical degree to care. In fact, your care makes you extremely qualified.

(3) What if something happens and I’m alone? I’ve experienced this fear when spending time with my mother. And I feel it every time I serve as a hospice volunteer. Yes, if your loved one is in hospice care, he or she is in a stage of dying. And yes, rushing them to the emergency room is not an option under hospice care. The reality is that highly trained hospice physicians and nurses are only a phone call away. Even more, at home when you are alone with your loved one, you can care can be more directed—not simply on their body or on their disease or condition. But on their smile. And the way they look when they sleep. And the sound of their voice. And the way their eyes come alive when surrounded by those they love.

(4) I can’t bear to watch my loved one suffer. One of the goals of hospice care is to provide comfort. The doctors and nurses associated with hospice care are specifically trained in palliative care and the alleviation of unnecessary suffering and pain. When the goal of care is no longer to simply extend life, tests and poking and prodding are no longer necessary. Under the care of hospice, listening matters more than ever because your loved one’s voice is considered the ultimate authority on their own body, needs, and desires.  I couldn’t bear to watch my mother suffer either, that’s why hospice was the most humane and loving choice.

(5)  My home is no place for death. Our homes are places of life. So why isn’t it fitting they be the places of life for people we care most about when they are living while dying?  Care and love blossom in places of comfort where rooms are filled with the aromas and memories of a life lived. Care and love don’t have visiting hours. The framed pictures of family and friends watching over your loved one as they sleep means your loved one is never alone. And just as importantly, it’s nice to be reminded that you aren’t alone either.

2 Responses leave one →
  1. September 6, 2010

    dr. white…

    thanks so much for helping us understanding end of life issues through a life affirming way…

    i appreciate your interest in shaking up thought-habits so we can live with life again…

    dominant, collective thought has us running away from death and as a result, has us running away from ourself….

    gino dante borges

  2. Angela Howard permalink
    February 12, 2011

    Thank you for expressing this in a kind and open way.

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