Matt Magee recently had the experience of a lifetime.
A diehard rock-and-roll fan, the 56-year-old was able to attend a concert featuring his favorite band, Alice in Chains, in Mt. Pleasant. As a bonus, he was able to meet band members outside their tour bus for autographs, photos and conversations after the show.
Magee made the hour-long trip from his home, an adult foster care center in Big Rapids, while suffering from advanced multiple sclerosis, thanks to connections made by his caregiver, Hospice of Michigan.
“When most people think about hospice, they expect it means being confined to a bed, barely clinging to life,” said Robert Cahill, president and CEO of HOM. “Because of this misconception, many only consider hospice in the final days of life, but hospice care is most suited to support patients during the final months of life.”
November, National Hospice and Palliative Care Month, is a time when hospices and palliative care providers across the nation help raise awareness about this special kind of care. It is also a good time to help deepen the understanding of hospice and explain the many myths.
Cahill notes the following common misconceptions of hospice care and offers a deeper understanding:
Myth: All hospice organizations are connected.
More than 100 hospices provide end-of-life care in Michigan. Some are run by national chains and some, such as HOM, are community-based and grow from a mission to provide compassionate care. Some programs are affiliated directly with a hospital or nursing home, while others are free standing. Patients and their families have the right to choose the hospice organization they feel will provide the best care.
Myth: All hospice organizations are the same.
Hospice programs can differ widely in the services they provide, their philosophy of care, etc. One of the most important distinctions is those that are for-profit and those that are non-profits. As a non-profit organization, HOM has a mission of providing service to anyone who needs or seeks its care, regardless of their age, diagnosis or ability to pay. HOM will never turn a patient away, no matter how medically complex or how medically fragile the condition. For patients without Medicare or insurance, HOM provides free care, raising more than $4 million every year to cover the cost of services for those unable to pay.
Myth: To be eligible for hospice, I have to be in the final stages of dying.
In general, hospice programs are open to people in the last six months of life, as certified by a physician. However, there is no fixed limit on the amount of time a patient may continue to receive services.
Myth: Hospice is expensive.
Hospice care is available as a benefit for those who receive Medicare. It covers all medicines, medical supplies and equipment that are related to the illness or condition and provides such support as home health aides, physicians and nurses, chaplains, counseling, practical and financial assistance, grief assistance and volunteers to help with day-to-day chores, errands and companionship. For those ineligible for Medicare, most insurance plans, HMOs, and managed care plans cover hospice care. As a non-profit hospice provider, HOM does not charge for its services.
Myth: Hospice care means leaving home.
Hospice is not necessarily a place; it’s a form of palliative care that seeks to comfort rather than cure. HOM provides services wherever the patient is living or receiving care. It may be in an apartment, condo or home or a hospital, nursing home or assisted living facility. HOM travels to wherever the patient considers home, allowing them to continue to receive support from their family and friends while under hospice care.
Myth: Hospice means forgoing all medical treatment.
Palliative care becomes appropriate when treatments are no longer effective and the burden of the disease becomes too much to bear for the patient and family. While hospice does focus on comfort rather than cure, hospice nurses and physicians are experts in the latest medications and devices for pain and symptom relief.
Myth: Hospice care ends when someone dies.
Hospice is not only about helping patients die a good death, but it is also committed to helping their loved ones learn to live with grief. HOM offers a variety of free grief support groups throughout Michigan that are open to all in need.
“Whether you are facing a terminal illness or you are supporting a loved one in their end-of-life transition, Hospice of Michigan is there to make life better,”” Cahill adds. “We’re fond of saying that we help ensure quality of life at the end of life. We will continue in our compassion mission, knowing that we’re helping patients and their caregivers when it it’s needed most.””
For more information on hospice care or to determine eligibility, contact Hospice of Michigan at 888.247.5701 or visit www.hom.org.