Awareness and Misperceptions of Hospice and Palliative Care: A Population-Based Survey Study

Am J Hosp Palliat Care. 2018 Mar;35(3):431-439. doi: 10.1177/1049909117715215. Epub 2017 Jun 20.


Background: Despite the documented benefits of palliative and hospice care on improving patients' quality of life, these services remain underutilized. Multiple factors limit the utilization of these services, including patients' and caregivers' lack of knowledge and misperceptions.

Objectives: To examine palliative and hospice care awareness, misperceptions, and receptivity among community-dwelling adults.

Design: Cross-sectional study.

Subjects: New York State residents ≥18 years old who participated in the 2016 Empire State Poll.

Outcomes measured: Palliative and hospice care awareness, misperceptions, and receptivity.

Results: Of the 800 participants, 664 (83%) and 216 (27%) provided a definition of hospice care and palliative care, respectively. Of those who defined hospice care, 399 (60%) associated it with end-of-life care, 89 (13.4%) mentioned it was comfort care, and 35 (5.3%) reported hospice care provides care to patients and families. Of those who defined palliative care (n = 216), 57 (26.4%) mentioned it provided symptom management to patients, 47 (21.9%) stated it was comfort care, and 19 (8.8%) reported it was applicable in any course of an illness. Of those who defined hospice or palliative care, 248 (37.3%) had a misperception about hospice care and 115 (53.2%) had a misperception about palliative care.

Conclusions: Most community-dwelling adults did not mention the major components of palliative and hospice care in their definitions, implying a low level of awareness of these services, and misinformation is common among community-dwelling adults. Palliative and hospice care education initiatives are needed to both increase awareness of and reduce misperceptions about these services.

Keywords: awareness; community-dwelling adults; hospice care; misperceptions; palliative care; palliative care receptivity.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Awareness*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice*
  • Hospice Care / organization & administration*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • New York
  • Pain Management
  • Palliative Care / organization & administration*
  • Quality of Life