The 12 Myths about Hospice

Author: Lindsey Ulrich

Nearly 1.6 million people are in hospice care in the United States. Here are some common myths about hospice, followed by the facts. 


Myth #1: Hospice means giving up

In order to enter hospice treatment, a patient must first be diagnosed by a physician to have a likelihood of living for six months or less. Patients are then treated for comfort and not for a cure. Because of this, the most common misconception about hospice for patients and their families is that entering hospice means giving up on life.

But hospice doesn’t mean giving up—hospice means getting more.

Patients in hospice—and their families—receive personalized care and support wherever they call home. It’s a specialized type of care designed to support the most difficult times in patients’ and families’ lives, and help guide them through complicated decisions with expertise, experience, and deep compassion. In short, hospice means calling in reinforcements for the journey ahead, and making the most of patients’ and their loved ones' time together.

Myth #2: You need a doctor’s referral to receive hospice care

Unlike homecare, hospice care does not require a doctor’s referral. Anyone who has concern or cares for a patient can refer them into hospice care, including immediate family or caregivers. In fact, patients can even refer themselves for hospice care.

Myth #3: Hospice means the patient no longer has a say in their care

In this myth, some imagine that hospice patients are released from hospitals into the strict directives of physicians or family members, and that they no longer have the power to make decisions or choices about their care or life. In truth, hospice is built on the foundation of patient personalization, empowerment, and teamwork. We’re here to deliver medical, physical, emotional, and spiritual support in unity with our patients’ needs.

Myth #4: Once you are in hospice care, you stay in hospice care

An extremely common misconception about hospice is that once patients enter hospice care they are unable to seek other methods of care, such as hospitalization, and/or are unable to leave hospice care altogether. Patients have many choices in their care once admitted into hospice, and if a patient leaves hospice they can be readmitted if a provider once again determines they are eligible.

Myth #5: Hospice is expensive

Recognizing that “expensive” is sensitive and different for each of us and our individual circumstances, we find that patients and their providers can be hesitant at first to utilize hospice care because they are unaware of its costs and coverage.

It’s also important to understand what is included in the hospice services benefit and the important value those services bring to the patient. Hospice provides all services to manage their illness symptoms, including physicians, nurses, social workers, aides, spiritual care, music and massage therapy, as well as medication, supply, and equipment management, and more. Our team is committed to ensuring patients and their families understand hospice care is covered by most private insurance carriers, Medicare and Medicaid, and we have resources available for those without coverage.

Myth #6: Hospice provides support only for the patient

Hospice care is for patients and their families and friends. Some of the greatest benefits hospice provides in addition to its comforting care for the patient is the peace of mind families and friends receive knowing their loved one is in good hands.

Even more, hospice provides families and friends with support during the patient’s life and after, with advance planning, counseling, respite, bereavement services, and more.

Myth #7: There is no difference between hospice and palliative care

Patients with chronic and debilitating illness—and their providers—should be aware of their specialized options for care. Hospice and palliative care are often confused for the same type of treatment because both provide comfort care for patients wherever they call home. However, there is one key difference in these types of care. Hospice care is comfort care for patients with life-limiting illness that provides treatment for symptom relief—but not to cure the illness. Palliative care, on the other hand, provides comfort AND treatment for the illness.

Myth #8: Hospice patients must sign a “Do Not Resuscitate” order

A DNR—or, “Do Not Resuscitate”—order is NEVER required during hospice care at any time. A hospice patient’s only requirement to qualify for care is that they have received a prognosis of six months or less to live.

Myth #9: Hospice can be provided only for six months

Although patients qualify for hospice by a prognosis of life-limiting illness of six months or less, hospice care will continue for as long as the patient qualifies with a terminal prognosis.

Myth #10: Hospice is only for cancer patients

Hospice is not just for patients with terminal cancer. Cardiovascular disease, stroke, dementia, Alzheimer’s, and ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease) are other common diagnoses, but hospice care is available for anyone with a doctor’s prognosis to live for six months or less.

Myth #11: Hospice care ends with the patient

Hospice care provides comfort, support, and dignity to those with a life-limiting illness focused on making the most of the patient and their loved ones’ time together. When their time together does come to an end, hospice care does not. Hospice continues to provide compassionate support for the immediate family and provides bereavement services for at least a year. In fact, McLaren Hospice provides bereavement services to anyone—not just patients in our care and their loved ones.

McLaren Hospice is an extended family of caregivers who remain connected and supportive to the loved ones of patients we serve.

Myth #12: Hospice is a place

Hospice is not a facility like a hospital or nursing home—though it can be provided there. Hospice care is special—it can be provided wherever a patient calls home. McLaren Hospice serves hundreds of patients in hundreds of different locations every single day across 50 Michigan counties. We can help, wherever you are.

To learn more about McLaren’s Homecare and Palliative Care, click here or call (866) 323-5974. To refer yourself or a patient to hospice care, simply call 1-800-862-3132, or visit to get started.