A common misperception among Americans is that entering hospice care means there is little time left to live. However, research suggests otherwise. People may actually live longer in hospice care.

A study was conducted by researchers for the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization and the highly regarded consulting and actuarial firm, Milliman, Inc. The researchers evaluated 4,493 patients with various forms of cancer and congestive heart failure. They analyzed the differences between those who received hospice care and those who did not. The finding was that the hospice patients in this group lived an average of 29 days longer than the non-hospice patients.

This means that in many cases, the hospice patient may have more precious days to spend with family and friends. This gift of time may be needed for resolution and closure. It can be an opportunity to mend or strengthen relationships and to enjoy reminiscing. Of course, this can also be a tremendous benefit to the family, having more time to express their love and to say goodbye.

What accounts for the increased longevity? According to the study, patients entering hospice in a weakened condition may avoid the risks of being over treated for their illness. Secondly, hospice patients may receive better monitoring, treatment, medications and therapies. Further, the physical, emotional and spiritual support provided by hospice may also be a factor in extending life, as this kind of care alleviates anxiety and fear.

It has been often said that while hospice cannot add days to a person’s life, it can add quality to the days. According to this research, hospice care may actually be able to do both.

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