Misconceptions About Hospice Care Persist Among U.S. Public

A large proportion of U.S. adults continue to have a limited understanding of hospice care, and misperceptions continue to persist, according to a new MorseLife Hospice and Palliative Care survey.

Nearly 40% of people in the United States believe that the sole purpose of hospice care is to sedate patients approaching the end of life to relieve pain and anxiety, and 38% indicated that they did not know that hospice care is designed for patients who are expected to live six months or less.

Close to half of respondents said they didn’t know that health insurance would pay for hospice.

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“While most Americans are aware of the term hospice, there continues to be many misconceptions about hospice care,” said Keith Myers, president and CEO of MorseLife Health System. “Hospice focuses on enhancing quality of life and reducing suffering through holistic medical, emotional and spiritual services for patients and their families, is often covered by insurance, and is specifically designed for the last six months of life.”  

These types of misconceptions may be contributing to the trend of patients and families waiting too long to start planning for their end-of-life care. Nearly 60% of survey respondents said they had not discussed their end-of-life care preferences with anyone, even though about 45% of those individuals said they were 65 or older. 

The top reasons for putting off those difficult conversations were an aversion to thinking about one’s eventual death and a belief among the members of the public that they are too young to consider such issues, the survey found.

More than 2,000 people older than 18-years-old responded to the internet-based survey. Other key findings included data showing that 72% of U.S. adults feel that if they were terminally ill and in hospice they would want to have access to a religious leader for spiritual guidance, even though only 54% of Americans say they consider themselves religious, according to the Pew Research Center.

In addition, close to 90% respondents indicated that they support the use of medical marijuana as a treatment option for terminally ill patients, with nearly 60% expressing strong support.

“MorseLife was recently selected to participate in a pilot study on the use of medical marijuana as an alternative treatment to manage pain, anxiety, depression and reduce reliance on opioids,” said Myers. “The pilot study has the potential to revolutionize treatment protocols and it is reaffirming to know that most Americans are supportive of our groundbreaking work.”

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