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URMC / Patients & Families / Health Matters / March 2017 / Understanding Hospice: It’s About How You Live

Understanding Hospice: It’s About How You Live

Contrary to what many people think, hospice doesn’t mean that hope is lost. It does mean refocusing the goals of end-of-life care to support the best quality of life. UR Medicine Home Care’s Hospice Medical Director Dr. Thomas Caprio explains what hospice is, and why it’s about how you live.hospice health worker caring for gentleman at home

When we think about end-of-life care, it can be emotional and burdensome for caregivers, especially those who lack support or get access to hospice services when their loved one has just days or hours left to live. Many people aren’t aware of the benefits of hospice care until very late into their illness. Sadly, this is a missed opportunity, since a hospice team can help ease the journey, address symptoms, share in the stories and celebrate the life that has been lived.

Here are a few common myths about hospice, along with facts to dispel them:

  • MYTH: Hospice is a place. FACT: Hospice care can be provided at any location. Hospice caregivers go wherever the patient is, whether that’s a person’s home, a community-based comfort care home, an inpatient center, a hospital unit or a skilled nursing facility.
  • MYTH: People in hospice are bedridden. FACT: Patients often begin getting hospice care at a point where their symptoms and pain are managed well enough for them to go out of the house or visit with family and friends. And hospice care isn’t just for the patient, but also for his or her entire family. The hospice team of specialized professionals, along with a patient’s primary physician, acts as a direct extension of the patient’s family, addressing everyone’s personal, emotional, spiritual and medical needs. Put simply, the goal of hospice is to enhance quality of life for everyone, not just the patient.
  • MYTH: Hospice is only for people with cancer. FACT: Some people turn to hospice if they have cancer and no further treatment options, or it’s progressed despite having the best treatments. But the majority of patients in the U.S. who get hospice care have other non-cancer diagnoses, including advanced dementia, neurologic disease, kidney failure, or heart, lung or liver disease.
  • MYTH: Hospice means you’ve given up and is a last resort. FACT: While it’s associated with end-of-life, choosing hospice doesn’t mean surrendering to disease, but rather embracing the opportunity to make the most of the time you have. And the idea of not giving up hope applies to both patients and families. Hospice neither hurries nor prolongs the dying process, although some people may live longer, especially if their disease is not responding to standard treatment. But the earlier someone is referred to a hospice program, the better the hospice team will have an opportunity to get to know the person, identify their specific needs and address any worries.

Hospice is a program and philosophy of care that provides a supportive environment to meet the physical, emotional, and spiritual needs of those with life-threatening illness. It’s focused on preventing, treating or eliminating discomfort and managing distressing symptoms.

Hospice can:

  • provide compassionate care for people with a terminal illness until death occurs,
  • focus on relieving symptoms and increasing comfort of the person who is dying,
  • assist family and loved ones in addition to the patient,
  • assure that a person’s wishes for end-of-life care are honored.

Remember that, while they’re with you through the end a life, a hospice team is focused on how you live.


Thomas Caprio MD


Thomas V. Caprio, M.D., specializes in geriatric medicine, hospice, and palliative care. He is chief medical officer and hospice medical director for UR Medicine Home Care, which offers a complete system of care and support for those facing the end of life with respect and compassion.


Lori Barrette | 3/10/2017

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