Continuing Care

What You Should Know About Hospice Care

Spectrum Health Hospice Debunks Common Myths

Spectrum Health Hospice knows that most people don’t think about hospice care until they or a loved one is in need of this special health service. There is confusion about what hospice care involves, where the service is delivered and how much it costs.

“People often don’t seek information about hospice until there is a crisis and they have an immediate need,” said Lisa Vanderwel, director, business development, Spectrum Health Hospice. “We want patients and families to know the many truths about this service that is available to them often much earlier than one might think. We work with our patients and families to ensure good quality to each and every day.”

Vanderwel outlines the common “myths” about hospice care.

Myth: Hospice is for people in their last days of life

Fact: Hospice is about living life to the fullest and bringing peace and contentment to each day. The goal of hospice care is optimal symptom control and physical, emotional and spiritual well being. Pain, nausea, shortness of breath and anxiety can interfere with ones quality of life. Our efforts enable a person to enjoy what’s really important to them and spend time with those who matter most.

“A person usually qualifies for hospice care much earlier than they think and families frequently comment that they wish they had called sooner,” said Vanderwel.

Myth: Hospice is a place.

Fact: The goal of hospice care is that you are cared for and kept comfortable in the environment you choose and we are proud to provide excellent care wherever that might be. Hospice care usually takes place in the comfort of your home, but can be provided in any environment in which you live, including nursing homes, assisted living facilities or even the hospital.

Myth: Not all hospices provide for the spiritual care of the patient.

Fact:  Spiritual care is an important aspect of care in all hospice programs. Federal regulations require chaplains to be an integral part of the hospice interdisciplinary team.

The chaplains at Spectrum Health Hospice are trained to address end of life questions in a gentle, affirming, non-threatening manner. 

“The conversations our hospice chaplains facilitate help instill hope in times of turmoil, restore healing in broken relationships with people or God and maintain peace in all circumstances at all stages of life,” said Vanderwel.

Myth: Families have to pay for hospice care.

Fact:  Hospice care is covered at 100% by Medicare, Medicaid and most other insurance policies. The benefit covers visits from the nurse and all other members of the interdisciplinary team, equipment that might be needed, medications related to the hospice diagnosis, even home visits from our physicians. Through its charity care policies, Spectrum Health Hospice is committed to caring for all patients, regardless of an individual’s ability to pay or insurance status. 
Myth: Patients can only receive hospice care for a limited amount of time.

Fact:  Medicare and Medicaid as well as most private insurances pay for hospice care as long as the patient continues to meet the necessary criteria. Patients are sometimes discharged from hospice when they are doing better and are much more comfortable and may later re-enroll in hospice care if needed.

Myth:  Hospice shortens a person’s life

Fact:  Some studies have shown that a person can live longer with adequate support and comfort care that our expert team provides. When symptoms of discomfort and pain are better managed, one often experiences increased appetite, renewed energy and sense of well being and purpose. 

Myth: Hospice is only for cancer patients.

Fact: Hospice care is helpful for persons living with a wide range of diagnoses including heart disease, cancer, Alzheimer’s and lung disease. Hospice care is open to all persons diagnosed with a life-limiting illness. It is appropriate to obtain information on hospice when:

• Curative treatment is no longer being sought
• There is an increase in pain, nausea, difficulty breathing or other symptoms
• An individual is tired of frequent hospitalizations or trips to the ER and wants to be home and comfortable
• An individual is sleeping a lot, less alert and more emotionally withdrawn

Myth: Hospice is just for the patient.

Fact: Hospice focuses on comfort, dignity and emotional support. The quality of life for the patient, family members and caregivers is the highest priority.

Spectrum Health Hospice and Palliative Care is the only hospital-based hospice program in the greater Grand Rapids area. For more information, visit

Spectrum Health is a not-for-profit health system in West Michigan offering a full continuum of care through the Spectrum Health Hospital Group, which is comprised of nine hospitals including Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital, a state of the art children’s hospital that opened in January 2011, and 180 service sites; the Spectrum Health Medical Group and West Michigan Heart, physician groups totaling more than 600 providers; and Priority Health, a health plan with 625,000 members. Spectrum Health is West Michigan’s largest employer with more than 17,800 employees. The organization provided $115.9 million in community benefit during its 2010 fiscal year. In 2011 and 2010, Spectrum Health was named a Top 10 Health System by Thomson Reuters.