It’s a common myth that choosing hospice means giving up, but did you know that people who choose hospice actually live longer than people who continue to pursue other medical treatments? Medicare requires that people receiving hospice not receive curative treatments at the same time. It’s normal for people to hear that and then assume that hospice is for people who have given up. That myth could not be farther from the truth.
Hospice does not specifically work to shorten or lengthen life. Instead, hospice works to bolster comfort and quality of life during a very important time of life. People who enroll in hospice are choosing hope for a better life now. That being said, it’s worthwhile to know that choosing hospice does not shorten life. People qualify for hospice only when a doctor believes a disease would normally prove terminal in six months, regardless of any treatment available. It turns out that when other medical approaches are not likely to cure a disease, comfort care strengthens patients more and gives them more life. Furthermore, nearly 20% of patients discharge from hospice alive.
Several scientific studies now demonstrate the life-lengthening effects of comfort care for terminally ill patients. Some of these studies are listed below. These studies will typically start tracking large numbers of patients at some common starting point such as when certain disease conditions exist. The conditions and starting points tend to be situations where the common disease course would be one that would limit survival to six months or less. Then, researchers compare survival times between patients who received hospice and those who pursued other medical care. On average, patients who receive care that focuses on comfort, emotional support, and symptom control at home live longer than patients who choose other care. Families who receive hospice for longer than two weeks also report higher quality of life.
Studies finding that hospice lengthens life:
- Hamano J, Yamaguchi T, Maeda I, et al. Multicenter cohort study on the survival time of cancer patients dying at home or in a hospital: Does place matter? Cancer. 2016 May; 122 (9): 1453-60.
- Saito A, Landrum M, Neville B, et al. Hospice care and survival among elderly patients with lung cancer. J Palliat Med. 2011; 14 (8): 929-939.
- Keyser E, Reed B, Lowery W, et al. Hospice enrollment for terminally ill patients with gynecologic malignancies: impact on outcomes and interventions. Gynecol Oncol. 2010: 118 (3): 274-7.
- Connor S, Pyenson B, Fitch K, et al. Comparing hospice and nonhospice patient survival among patients who die within a three-year window. J Pain Symptom Manage. 2007 Mar; 33(3): 238-46.