Many people don’t even want to think about hospice care, much less talk about it. They equate hospice care with death, but this is just one of the many misconceptions associated with this kind of care. The truth is, hospice is much more about life than it is about death because it lets the patient make the most of their remaining time with minimal stress and discomfort.

Even more, hospice care is also about the patient’s loved ones and friends. This wonderful service gives advice and support to them, too. You will receive support and services from a number of health care professionals, including physicians, pharmacists, nurses, therapists and home health care workers. Spiritual guidance from a clergyman of your religious choice is also available and encouraged. Social workers oversee your care, too.

Do you know what hospice offers? Here’s a basic list of the goals of this specialized kind of care:

  • Providing physical comfort
  • Meeting mental and emotional needs
  • Providing spiritual care
  • Assisting with tasks of daily living

Hospice isn’t a place. It’s a philosophy. You can choose to receive services anywhere, including in your own home. Your family and friends will receive instructions on how to care for you. A nurse will be assigned to you, and he or she will visit you on a regular basis, usually two to three times a week. Your nurse will assess your changing needs and adjust medications as needed.

Control of pain is a paramount goal of hospice care. Effective medications to control discomfort and other symptoms are always available to you. Special hospice pharmacies deliver these medications to your door. Home health care personnel can assist you with bathing, dressing and other daily activities. Hospice is all about you and the people who matter to you the most.

Hospice Care Myths


  • It’s only for cancer patients


Not only is this untrue, it’s not even accurate. The statistics say that only about 30 percent of hospice patients have a primary diagnosis of terminal cancer. Common non-cancer diseases seen often in hospice include heart failure, vascular diseases and neurological conditions.


  • It’s only for the actual dying process


Hospice is appropriate for any kind of terminal illness expected to end the patient’s life within the next six months as determined by a medical professional. This kind of specialized care is all about making the most of the time the patient has left to live. Some patients even outlive the six-month time period. No one ever really knows when someone will die, even if they have a fatal illness. The entire dying process can easily take many months as the body slowly prepares for it. Hospice provides support during this intervening time so precious time isn’t wasted. Home health care workers can also free up time for caregivers, so they don’t get overwhelmed.


  • It means being required to sign a DNR


A DNR is a written directive that stands for Do Not Resuscitate. This means that in the event of a life-threatening medical situation, emergency response personnel are forbidden to try to save the person’s life through artificial means. Many people think that since they’re in hospice for end-of-life care that they’ll be forced to sign a DNR. However, a hospice patient cannot be forced to do anything. A DNR isn’t the right choice for everyone. As a hospice care patient, you still make your own medical choices. If you don’t feel comfortable signing a DNR, you don’t have to.


  • You can’t leave hospice


You can leave the service at any time. All you have to do is let your providers know. No one can force you to remain in hospice if you don’t want to. You don’t even have to give a reason, but you probably should discuss the matter with your providers. Maybe the problem can be solved, and you won’t have to leave. However, if you are unhappy with hospice, you can leave at any time. If you want to return to it later, you can do that, too.


  • You need a physician’s referral


While it’s true that hospice requires a doctor’s order and certification, the referral or suggestion can be made by anyone. If you think you or a loved one could benefit from this kind of care, speak up.


  • It’s expensive


Hospice is typically covered 100 percent by Medicare, Medicaid, which is called Medi-Cal in California, and the United States Department of Veteran’s Affairs as long as certain criteria are met:

  1. The patient signs a form requesting hospice in lieu of other covered treatments.
  2. The patient’s physician must certify that the patient has a medical condition likely to be terminal within six months’ time.
  3. The patient agrees to accept palliative treatment and agrees not to pursue any kind of curative treatments.

Palliative treatment focuses on symptomatic treatment designed only to keep the patient out of pain and otherwise comfortable. Many private insurers also cover the service. Hospice includes all relevant medications and even certain supplies, such as adult diapers, a hospital bed, chux pads, eggcrate mattress, nebulizer, oxygen and special hygiene items.

Continued Support

Hospice care continues even after the patient’s passing. Grief counseling, bereavement services and help with funeral arrangements are all available to help loved ones cope and adjust after they’ve said goodbye. Hospice will make arrangements to transport the body to the funeral home. They can make a tremendous difference in this difficult time as they help to guide family and friends through the aftermath of a loved one’s passing. You can expect this support to last for up to a full year in some cases.


If you live in California near the Central Coast, Monterey County or Hollister, VNA provides hospice and home health care services for this area. You can read more about us online. We look forward to your visit.