A Place of Refuge: What You Don’t Know About Hospice Care

It’s derived from the Latin word meaning “hospitality” or “a place of refuge”, but most people upon hearing the word “hospice”, tend to cringe as if the word is itself a diagnosis of death. They often believe that “hospice” is a place, the nice Hospice Homes near the hospital where people go for the last few days of their life. The fact is, hospice is not a place, it’s a philosophy of care and a specialized field of medicine.

“Let’s be honest, it’s hard to talk about death,” says Susan Burk, the Community Liaison at Central Wyoming Hospice and Transitions. “When a patient and family hear ‘hospice’, there’s often already fear in their hearts. Hospice is not about death. It’s about life…having the best quality of life in the time that is given to you.”

At Central Wyoming Hospice, their team companions not only the patient but the entire family through the end-of-life journey, as their mission states, “with skill and compassion”. They work to make that journey what the patient wants, providing a plan and a path forward. Hospice patient-directed care prioritizes comfort, quality of life, and individual wishes and includes addressing physical, emotional, spiritual, and social needs.

November is National Hospice and Palliative Care Month, a good time to address the many myths and misconceptions about what Hospice is and isn’t.

  • Hospice is not a place. At CWHT, most patients are in their own homes, whether it be their residence in town, out at their ranch, or in an assisted living or nursing home facility. Their Chapman and Kloefkorn Hospice Homes are available to those who need that specialized level of care.
  • Choosing hospice care does not mean you’re giving up; rather, it’s a shift in the way you’re approaching your medical care. If you or your loved one no longer wants treatment or it’s not working, Hospice provides a way to live the rest of your days in comfort, peace, and dignity. It’s not about giving up, it’s about improving quality of life surrounded by family, in the comfort of your home.
  • Choosing hospice doesn’t have to be a permanent decision. You can leave a hospice program at any time for any reason without penalty. You can also restart hospice services at any time if you are medically eligible.
  • Hospice does not hasten death, neither does it prolong life. In fact, some studies show that hospice patients with certain illnesses may live longer with hospice care than those who choose another path. Again, the goal is to make the quality of the patient’s life the best it can be in their last months, weeks, and days.
  • Hospice will not take away all your medications. Your hospice nurse will go over your medications with you and your family to decide what you need to stay comfortable. Other medicines may be added to keep you relaxed and free of pain.
  • You don’t have to give up your doctor if you choose hospice care. Our team of nurses will work with your doctor to be sure you get the best quality of care.
  • There’s no time limit for hospice services. Although a doctor must decide that you have a six-month prognosis to receive hospice care, patients aren’t discharged after that time. There’s a recertification process. Many Central Wyoming Hospice patients have been with them much longer than six months, some even years.
  • A conversation is not a commitment, and the Care Coordination Team at CWHT is happy to answer any questions you may have.

“Having that conversation can be a powerful thing,” says Burk. “It’s not a a commitment for you, but it is a commitment for us to make sure everyone in our community has access to, and knowledge of, this unique care.”