Hospice vs Palliative Care

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As people grow old or are diagnosed with possible life-threatening illnesses, many difficult decisions come up that must be made. Selecting the best treatment and care for a loved one tends to be a difficult decision. Two options available to the elderly and ill are hospice and palliative care. Oftentimes people may not understand the difference between the two. Ideally, this article will help clarify some of the common misconceptions people have regarding these two types of care.

Hospice is set up for patients whose condition has deteriorated so much that their life expectancy has been estimated to be less than six months. Although passing away in six months is not a guarantee, the patient’s condition has indicated it could be a strong possibility. Hospice will provide care to patients from the conclusion of treatment up until the end of life.

Palliative care is a specialized medical care program set up for patients with serious illnesses. The main goal is to improve the quality of life for both the patient and their family members by helping relieve symptoms, stress, and any pain connected with the illness.

Hospice is the more familiar term of the two. Hospice care comes from the recommendation of a doctor. Many health insurance plans and Medicare cover this type of care. Hospice is essentially a subset of palliative care. Once a patient has been arranged hospice care, they can expect full medical and nursing services, as well as social work, physical and occupational therapy, and grief counseling. The overall goal is to help the entire family deal with the situation and ensure the patient is as comfortable as possible.

Patients who are on hospice can accept palliative care as a way of finding the right means of comfort, as opposed to conventional care. It is important to keep in mind that hospice only focuses on the comfort of the patient. For example, a hospice nurse can inject pain medication, but cannot provide radiation or chemotherapy. Hospice is simply meant to help the patient feel as comfortable as they can during their final months of life.

In contrast, palliative care is designed to continue treating the patient’s illness. The goal is to help the patient and their families navigate through the illness. It’s predominantly about symptom management and quality of life. In hospice, the patient often remains at home in the most comfortable state as possible. While in palliative care, the medical team works to help the patient improve their overall health.

Palliative care also focuses on the patient’s physical and mental state. Doctors and nurses will come up with a medication and therapy plan to improve the patient’s quality of life. The medical team gets to know the patient and what they enjoy about life in an effort to continue their favorite daily activities. Patients are active participants in this type of care and have a voice in deciding to accept or reject any aggressive treatments.  

Both services provide the comfort and support that patients and families require during these difficult times in their lives. Both forms of care aim to ensure the patient is as comfortable and happy as possible in preparation for their passing or next health battle.

Comparing Hospice and Palliative Care

Hospice CarePalliative Care
Designed for patients who have been diagnosed with a terminal illnessPromotes patients BEST quality of life at any age and any stage of illness
Patients stop any curative treatmentsProvides solutions for pain, symptoms, and stress of serious illnesses
Needs the recommendation from a doctor to beginIt can be started at any stage of the illness. The sooner the better!
Works with the care you are receiving from your specialists and primary physician…does not replace itWorks with the care you are receiving from your specialists and primary physician…does not replace it

Hospice and palliative care are available as a resource to a suffering patient’s family at any time. Whether they are looking for a way to help the patient treat the illness as early as possible, or to help comfort them in their final few months, both forms of care take pride in being sympathetic and respectful to all parties involved.

Regarding these potential health care options, it is always easier to plan ahead when you are healthy. It is also worthwhile to continue to educate yourself and your family about the benefits of both types of care. Receiving serious news can drastically change the landscape of your mind. Being prepared ahead of time can help you worry less because you have already arranged a plan of action.