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Debunking A Common Hospice Myth



"It hurts to say this, but I am afraid my mother is likely to die sometime this year. Her doctor mentioned hospice at her last appointment, but I don’t think Mom really knew what he was referring to. I feel like signing Mom onto hospice is giving up on her. I've also heard stories of hospices giving patients a bunch of medication to help them die faster. What do you think, Mary?"



I think you need to take a step back and gather some more accurate information about hospice and your mother's situation. I have heard some outlandish and bizarre hospice myths in my time, and it seems you have heard one of them. I will gladly help make sense of all this for you.

Let's start with your mother’s situation. If her doctor mentioned hospice, there is a reason or that. It means that she is nearing the end-of-life, but it does not mean that her life is over. It just means that whatever diseases she has have progressed to the point that she is no longer on a stable path. Based on his experience, she likely will continue to decline.

I do believe that you need to collect additional information from her doctor. Another phone call or visit would help you obtain some clarification. Her doctor may have given you more of an explanation, though it is quite difficult to hold onto all of it in just one visit. Oftentimes medical terminology, time, and our ability to process the information make it necessary to have multiple conversations. During the second interaction, you can better prepare some more specific questions for her doctor.

You should collect more accurate information about hospice care, while you are at it. 

I have never heard of a hospice that works to hasten death. In fact, there is no incentive for a hospice to do that. The shorter a patient’s stay in hospice care, the more costly the care is for the hospice, and not all of that cost is reimbursed. Therefore, I know of no hospice that would give you medication to die faster.

One thing that does happen in hospice care from time to time is a patient dying earlier than they were projected to. If the family doctor gives three months as a timeline, and the patient passes in two weeks, family members feel like they did not get the time they had planned with their loved one. I have heard from angry family members when this occurs. Disease and decline do not take the same course with every human, and doctors can only give their best estimate. There are no guarantees.

My recommendation is that you take a little time to collect information, as I mentioned, about your mother’s disease process and how hospice works by talking to doctors and interviewing hospices. It will calm your fears and provide the information you need to make informed choices.

I wish you well on your journey.


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