“There is nothing more we can do” and other myths
Your goal has been to beat the odds and survive a chronic disease or complete your cancer treatments towards a successful remission and cure.
When that doesn’t happen and you hear the words, “there is nothing more we can do for you,” the
Cape Cod Healthcare Visiting Nurse Association of Cape Cod Hospice team can offer you more, including hope, comfort and support.
“Hospice is a philosophy of medical care, support, and guidance through the transition of ending curative treatments to living the rest of your days as comfortably and fully as possible,” said Sarah Endres, CHPCA, the VNA of Cape Cod Director of Hospice Operations. “It’s shifting your focus from a goal of being cured to doing what matters to you, being at home with your family and doing the activities you are able to do. The truth is, it can enhance and deepen your life and relationships in ways that you would never expect.”
While hospice can offer so much at such a difficult time, patients and families often find it difficult to talk or inquire about the VNA program because there are many misunderstandings about what it all means, Endres said.
Here are 10 of the most common myths and facts she hears about hospice, and her responses:
Myth: Hospice is a place.
Fact: We take care of you wherever you call home. It can be your home, an assisted living facility, skilled nursing facility, a family member or friend’s home. While hospice does not provide 24-hour staff in your home, they are just a phone call away, 24/7, for questions, needs or concerns. If you need us to come to your home outside of their scheduled visit, they will make arrangements to do that.
Myth: Hospice is for patients with no hope or giving up.
Fact: This isn’t our focus at all, it is quite the opposite. We offer hope and comfort at a time when you are giving up your aggressive, curative treatments that aren’t going to make you better. We provide support services that will help you live your life in a way that you may not have been able to do going through treatment. We can arrange for physical and occupational therapies to help build and maintain your energy level. A dietician will help with your dietary needs. Your nurse will teach you and your family how to administer medications that will make you comfortable and your home health aide will assist with your personal care.
You won’t be dealing with the restrictions of making doctors’ and clinic appointments or experiencing treatment side effects. This frees you to enjoy and do whatever activities you want, while making memories with your family and friends. And you are not required to be “homebound” as with other VNA services. You can travel if you are up to it.
Myth: You start hospice when you have only a short time to live.
Fact: Studies show that hospice neither hastens death nor prolongs life. While the guideline is six months to live if your disease follows its normal course, some get better while on hospice. They are free of the rigors of treatment and living their lives without restrictions. Others may ‘graduate’ from hospice because they are living longer and decide they no longer need the services. A few may change their mind and decide to try curative treatments again. You don’t give up making your own decisions when you sign on to hospice and we will do everything to support your choices.
Myth: Hospice is only for the patient.
Fact: Hospice is for you, your caregiver and family. They are as important to the hospice team as you are and they will be supported spiritually, emotionally, and by their presence whenever you need them. There is also bereavement support for your family for 13 months following your passing that includes counseling, support groups, emails and phone calls.
Myth: Hospice is only for cancer patients.
Fact: All life-limiting diseases are covered including lung, heart and neurological diseases, stroke, kidney or liver failure, Alzheimer’s and other dementias, and AIDS.
Myth: Hospice stops feeding you.
Fact: We encourage patients to eat and drink whatever they want. If you have been on a restricted diet such as low salt, no fats, or other dietary constraints, these will no longer apply. Your diet is unrestricted as long as you can safely eat and swallow. While your appetite may decrease and you may not want to drink as time goes on, adjustments will be made to address those changes.
Myth: The medications used to treat pain can hasten death.
Fact: The medications are used to help you remain comfortable and they do not hasten your death.
Myth: You have to sign Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) paperwork to be admitted to hospice care.
Fact: This is not a requirement to begin hospice care. While this will become a part of your care plan as time goes on, you can change your mind to rescind it even after you sign the paperwork. Sometimes, patients will decide to start curative treatment again and change their mind about having a DNR.
Myth: Your physician has to refer you to hospice.
Fact: While your physician will be signing your orders for hospice care, you or your family can contact and request hospice care.
Myth: You have to pay for hospice services.
Fact: Medicare covers all hospice care and services for those who are eligible for Medicare. Some private insurances and MassHealth will also cover costs, if you aren’t eligible for Medicare.
Endres encourages residents to call with any questions or if they think their loved one may be eligible for hospice care.
“The nurses are very helpful at answering your questions and they are available 24/7,” said Endres. “We can also do informational visits in your home.”
With the full resources of Cape Cod Healthcare, VNA Hospice is the highest-rated hospice on the Cape. For more information on Cape Cod Healthcare VNA Hospice, please visit or call 508-957-7710.