There's also some misunderstanding over who can utilize hospice care, with many people believing it's mainly for those dying of cancer. In fact, about 40 percent of U.S. hospice admissions are for patients suffering from some other life-ending disease, such as end-stage heart disease, dementia, lung disease or stroke, according to the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization.
The misunderstandings also involve the cost of care. Many people believe hospice is too expensive or out of their price range, even though Medicare or private insurance covers the full cost of hospice care.
Despite all this, the number of hospices and the number of people turning to them are expected to grow as baby boomers enter retirement age and begin facing their own mortality, said Schumacher, a member of that generation himself.
"We're as much a part of this death-denying culture as anyone, but we are consumers, and we look for alternatives," he said. "I think in the long run, we will be a group who will choose this option much sooner."
To learn more, visit the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization.
SOURCES: Donald Schumacher, Psy.D., former chief executive officer of Hospice Buffalo, and current president and CEO of the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization, Alexandria, Va.; Carol Spence, director of research, the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization