Why are People Afraid of Hospice?

Feb 20, 2023 | 0 comments

Jimmy Carter going on hospice

Former US president Jimmy Carter in 2015

Former President Jimmy Carter revealed on February 18 that he is going home from the hospital to live out the rest of his 98-year life on hospice. Back in 2015, when President Carter was diagnosed with metastatic skin cancer, I wrote a post encouraging him to set an example and go on hospice care. He instead pursued an experimental treatment that gave him eight more years of life. And that’s okay – good for him!

The news coverage over the weekend make it sound as if by going on hospice, he’s already dead. No wonder people are afraid of hospice. The problem is, most people wait too long to take advantage of the benefits of hospice. Too often, people go on hospice when they are literally at death’s door.

The guidelines for starting hospice care is a medical condition with a likelihood of causing the patient’s death within six months. Curiously, old age is not a valid diagnosis for hospice care.

Hospice is a specialized form of medical care that aims to provide comfort, support, and dignity to people who are in the final stages of a terminal illness. The primary goal of hospice care is to alleviate the physical, emotional, and spiritual pain and suffering of patients, as well as to provide support to their families and loved ones.

Hospice care can be provided in various settings, including the patient’s home, a hospice facility, a hospital, or a nursing home. Hospice care teams are typically interdisciplinary, including medical professionals, nurses, social workers, chaplains, and volunteers who work together to provide a holistic approach to care.

Care often involves managing pain and symptoms, providing emotional and spiritual support, and assisting with practical needs such as daily activities and end-of-life planning. The focus of hospice care is on the quality of life rather than the length of life, and the care is tailored to the individual needs and wishes of the patient and their family.

I witnessed the benefits of hospice care with my good friend Gary. He had COPD, and he spent three months on hospice care at home. It enabled him to go “into that good night” on his own terms.

There’s a meme making the rounds on social media with a quote from Carter: “I have one life and one chance to make it count for something… My faith demands that I do whatever I can, wherever I am, whenever I can, for as long as I can, with whatever I have to try to make a difference.” I hope Jimmy Carter’s choice of hospice at this point provides a teachable moment for society at large.

Why are People Afraid of Hospice?

There are many reasons why people may feel afraid or hesitant about hospice care. Some common concerns and misconceptions include:

  1. Fear of death: For many people, the idea of hospice care may be associated with the end of life and the fear of dying. However, hospice care is designed to provide support and comfort to patients and families during this challenging time.
  2. Misunderstandings about hospice: There are many misconceptions about hospice care, such as the belief that it means giving up on treatment or that it hastens death. In reality, hospice care is focused on providing comfort and support and can be provided alongside other treatments. Some people who go on hospice live longer than they would have pursuing aggressive medical interventions.
  3. Lack of information: Many people may not be familiar with hospice care and what it entails. This can lead to confusion and anxiety about what to expect and how to access hospice services.
  4. Concerns about cost: Some people may be worried about the cost of hospice care and whether they can afford it. However, hospice care is typically covered by Medicare, Medicaid, and most private insurance plans.
  5. Fear of losing control: For some people, the idea of relying on others for care can be challenging, and they may worry about losing their independence or control. However, hospice care is designed to empower patients and families and provide them with the support they need to make informed decisions and maintain control over their care.

Overall, it’s important to remember that hospice care is designed to provide support, comfort, and dignity to patients and their families during a difficult time. If you have concerns or questions about hospice care, it’s a good idea to talk to your healthcare provider or a hospice care provider to learn more and address any concerns you may have.

Gail Rubin, Certified Thanatologist and The Doyenne of Death®, speaks and writes about planning ahead for end-of-life issues, using a light touch on what many consider a dark topic. She’s also the coordinator of the Before I Die New Mexico Festival, taking place October 16-21, 2023.

A Good Goodbye