Dispelling hospice myths during National Hospice Month

Suncoast Hospice Medical Director Dr. Carol Li


ST. PETERSBURG — Hospice care is an important step in the care journey for people living with a serious or advanced illness.

Yet many studies have documented that African Americans and other minority older adults utilize hospice care at far lower rates than older white adults across all diagnoses and settings of care.

This is due largely to the African American community’s historical distrust of the health care system and misconceptions about what hospice care is.

Suncoast Hospice, a member of Empath Health, has been Pinellas County’s community hospice for more than 40 years. With that experience comes the understanding of how it can improve quality of life while honoring important cultural beliefs.

Carol Li, DO, medical director of Suncoast Hospice, offers the facts behind some common misconceptions:

Myth: Hospice is a place someone is “sent away” to or is a type of nursing home

Suncoast Hospice can provide care wherever the patient calls home.

“Hospice is not a location; however, we offer Care Centers for patients experiencing symptoms that cannot be managed in another setting,” explains Dr. Li. “Some will see improvement and transition back home after a short stay, while others, who are closer to the end of life, may pass there.”

Myth: Hospice takes over caregiving from family members.

Suncoast Hospice supports both the patient and their family. The care team works together to not only provide patient care but to ensure loved ones are involved in decision-making roles, have the resources they need to continue caregiving, and are emotionally supported. This team typically consists of a physician, nurses, health aides, a spiritual care coordinator, social worker and volunteers.

Myth: A hospice referral can only come from a physician

Enrollment in hospice care doesn’t need to happen through a doctor. Patients and family members can call at any time and speak to the care navigation team about needs and options for care.

“Many families have found they could begin services earlier than expected by calling on their own,” adds Dr. Li. “Earlier hospice referral is beneficial for patients and families so they can receive the most of what can be offered and improve quality of life during that time.”

Myth: I won’t be able to afford hospice care

As a community hospice, it is the mission of Suncoast Hospice to make sure everyone in our community needing hospice care receives it. Our services are covered by Medicare, Medicaid, managed care, private health insurance and private pay. Through the community’s generous support to Suncoast Hospice Foundation, we can help cover care and other essential needs for those having difficulty paying.

Myth: Hospice requires you to forgo all hospitalizations

Early treatment in the home or in one of our Care Centers can reduce the need for hospitalization. The hospice approach focuses on easing symptoms and creating support for the best quality of life. Patients receiving hospice services are still able to go to the hospital for care if needed.

If you or a loved one is interested in how Suncoast Hospice could improve quality of life, visit SuncoastHospice.org or call (727) 467-7423, day or night, to speak with our care navigation team.

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