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Published on April 07, 2017

Dispelling Myths about Hospice

There are certain words in health care that no one wants to hear. Hospice shouldn’t be one of them.

That’s the point of view of Avera@Home’s Mari Perrenoud, RN, CHPN, who serves as Hospice Liaison for the program. She’s helped hundreds of families who face the challenges that come with the special care that is hospice.

“I’m often the first face they see after they hear that word hospice,” she said. “My goal is to dispel the misconceptions they may have about it, and to show them that it’s not a negative. It’s really a privilege to be the person who can guide a family on their hospice journey. Most find that it’s a positive experience – it is a journey, not a place. But there are many things about it that are unknown to families.”

Perrenoud said those starting-point discussions – the “kitchen table conversations” as she calls them, are a place where the misconceptions can be modified. She offered these “myth versus fact” tips for any family that may need hospice care.

Myth: Hospice is a place.

Fact: Hospice is a specialized type of medical care that can be delivered in a person’s home, a nursing home or assisted living facility or at a hospice house. It’s the type of care that people need, more so than the location, that defines hospice. Most often, it is an added level of care that allows people who may be near the end of life to find physical, emotional and spiritual comfort. Hospice care takes pressure off family caregivers as well.

Myth: The Avera Dougherty House is a place to go at end of life.

Fact: A hospice house, like Avera Dougherty Hospice, can involve a person’s end of life, but each case is unique. Sometimes patients seek a facility for hospice, and some prefer end-of-life care in their homes. Perrenoud said some patients enter the Avera Dougherty House for symptom management or respite, then return home. Avera Hospice does its best to honor patient wishes no matter where they prefer their care.

Myth: Hospice sounds good, but most people cannot afford it.

Fact: Hospice is a Medicare and insurance-covered service, and in cases where the care is delivered in the home, it’s covered at 100 percent. When a patient prefers placement in a facility, Avera hospice professionals realize there are many insurance and assistance programs, and they take pride in helping families who need hospice to evaluate their options. “Our hospice team provides that extra layer of assistance to families. We can get them started with making calls and evaluating placement,” Perrenoud said. “Many times, 100 percent of care is covered, but families face room and board costs. We will navigate that process with the patient and family.”

Myth: Hospice is only for people with six months left – or less.

Fact: Patients may remain in a hospice program as long as they meet the medical condition requirements, so stays can range from a few days to a few years. The hospice team and the patient’s physician, along with the family, make this decision while following the regulations in Medicare. “We do our best to get patients on hospice service early, that way they benefit from it sooner and as long as possible, which in turn helps the family, too,” Perrenoud said.

Myth: Only families that have had those tough conversations about passing away are ready for hospice help.

Fact: Hospice professionals like Perrenoud often facilitate conversations about the dying process, not only with people facing it, but their families as well. “I often say that we pray for the best but we prepare for the worst,” she said. “My job is to open the discussion about how we can best take this journey together, with the promise of good care for patients and families. We’re there alongside the family each day, and having those intimate discussions is an important step. It’s a privilege being a part of it.”

You can learn more about Avera’s Hospice Care program.

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