Patient Referral
Employee Referral
Make A Donation

A Quick Primer on Hospice and Palliative Care

You’ve likely heard the terms hospice care and palliative care, but you may not be clear on what the differences are. In honor of Worldwide Hospice and Palliative Care Day, we will take some time to explore both options, what they mean and how they help in San Francisco and elsewhere.

In a nutshell, palliative care is meant to ease pain and other problems if an illness is serious yet not life-threatening for now; hospice care is for those who aren’t expected to recover from their illness or condition, with doctors deeming them to have less than six months to live, says WebMD.

Palliative Care

This type of program is designed to help people live with symptoms of long-term illnesses such as AIDS, cancer, and kidney disease, or from the side effects of treatments for those conditions. Palliative medicine is not supposed to replace other treatments. Rather, it’s an adjunct to assist patients in managing anything from nausea to nerve pain to shortness of breath.

Palliative care is basically a form of specialized medical care for those with serious illnesses, and it focuses on providing relief from the symptoms and stress of serious illnesses, says Get Palliative Care. Palliative care does many things. It:

  1. Alleviates symptoms
  2. Relieves pain
  3. Maximizes quality of life
  4. Provides another layer of assistance for those undergoing curative treatments such as radiation, chemotherapy, etc.

A cure and recovery could still happen at this point, with the goal of this program being to enhance quality of life for family members and the patient. Care is offered by a specially-trained team of nurses, doctors, and other specialists working alongside the patient’s existing doctors. Palliative care is open to anyone at any stage of an illness and is offered in conjunction with curative treatment.

Palliative care can be a component of hospice care, as both provide compassionate care to those with life limiting-illnesses. One difference is that palliative care is a separate area of medical practice wherein the patient can still receive treatment. When a cure is no longer a viable outcome, the patient then moves to hospice care.

Hospice Care

The transition to hospice care is made when a patient is deemed by their doctor as having less than six months to live. This doesn’t mean that in some rare cases, patients can’t come out of hospice later. It’s important to note that you as the family member don’t have to wait for the recommendation of a doctor to move forward with hospice. However, usually, Medicare will need approval from a doctor in order to pay for the service.

As a patient or a loved one, be an advocate for your own care, researching healthcare options and keeping the lines of communication open. Hospice care is a program that provides pain management, symptom control, spiritual care, and psychosocial support to patients and their families at a time when the illness can’t be cured. Hospices across the country serve more than 1.5 million people each year and their family caregivers.

Other facts according to the NHPCO include:

  • The average length of stay in hospice is 90 days.
  • Cancer is the leading diagnosis for those in hospice, followed by heart disease and dementia.
  • Home care is the leading form of hospice, comprising 98 percent. This includes the patient’s home, assisted living facility, or nursing home.

The main focus of hospice is on caring rather than curing. Hospice can occur in a variety of places, such as the patient’s home, a nursing home, assisted living facility, or within a hospice care facility. You may think that hospice is only ordered in the final days or moments of life. However, studies say the earlier, the better when it comes to receiving palliative and hospice care services soon after diagnosis.

Hospice care is typically covered by Medicare, Medicaid, and most private insurance plans. Living, rather than dying, is at the core of hospice, as it’s designed to provide the best quality of life possible for patients and by extension, their families. Patients with cancer or other end-stage diseases need help to alleviate the pain not just brought about by the disease but also discomfort from previous treatments such as chemotherapy. It’s not unheard of for patients to be discharged from hospice, even though hospice is widely known as a last option for the dying.

In the end, both hospice and palliative care offer relief from the pain of serious illness. They both address the social, emotional, and spiritual needs of patients as well as their families.

Contact Pathways Home Health and Hospice

Palliative care and hospice care are confusing to sort out at first glance. Need help distinguishing the right option for you, your loved one and family? We can help. Just contact us at 888-978-1306 today. We can connect you with the right resource right now.