Dispelling Myths and Understanding Hospice Care

Death. There, we got one of the most uncomfortable words in the English language out of the way first. What if I told you that death does not have to be uncomfortable? Dare I go as far as saying it can even be beautiful. A person’s journey to the inevitable can be made easier, more comfortable and even beautiful with the help of hospice.

There exists many beliefs about what hospice care is, and what it isn’t. Many of these beliefs are founded in myths perpetuated by the lack of proper education provided by hospice agencies themselves. At the inception of my career with Central Wyoming Hospice and Transitions my understanding of what hospice care is aligned with many of the common myths I refer to below. Myths that induce a fear that keeps people from receiving the important end-of-life care they need and, most importantly, deserve.

Let’s dismiss the myths and replace them with the reality of what hospice is:

Myth #1: Hospice services are reserved for the last few days of life.

Truth: Hospice is for anyone diagnosed with a terminal disease and given a prognosis of six months or less of life if their disease were to follow the normal projection. Six-month prognosis is strictly a qualifier, services are not limited to that timeframe. Several patients have lived multiple years with the comfort and care provided by Central Wyoming Hospice.

Myth #2: Hospice is giving up, a patient will die quickly on hospice services.

Truth: Hospice does not hasten death. Hospice manages symptoms while the patient goes through the natural dying process. In fact, several studies have been completed, and the conclusion is the same: Patients with a chronic illness live an average of 30 days longer while using hospice services.

Myth #3: The use of morphine is what starts the dying process in patients.

Truth: Morphine, when used properly, does not hasten death. It is an effective pain reliever that works to block pain signals in the brain. In addition, morphine is effective in treating shortness of breath. Morphine will increase the lungs tidal volume, improving gas exchange with the result being a decrease in the patient experiencing shortness of breath. Morphine will make a patient more comfortable and improve quality of life.

Myth #4: Hospice is only for cancer patients.

Truth: Hospice care is available for any individual with a terminal illness, including cardiac, respiratory, neurological, and many other illnesses. The focus of care is tailored to the individual patient’s symptoms regardless of the disease process.

At Central Wyoming Hospice, we work to dispel myths about hospice care and educate the community on all that hospice care truly is. We are with patients as they walk through the final stages of their journey. We are with the families and caregivers as they process the loss of their loved ones, providing them with the tools to process their loss effectively.

Central Wyoming Hospice works closely with the patients and family members to determine the best plan of care for each individual patient. Hospice plans of care are determined in conjunction with each individual patient to ensure that all wishes are honored and respected.

If you or a loved one is ever faced with the decision, consider reaching out to Central Wyoming Hospice. There is always someone available to speak with you and answer any questions you may have. Hospice is all about providing comfort every step of the way and walking with you through every part of your end-of-life journey.


Michael Steele, RN

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