When it comes to providing compassionate and comprehensive care for individuals facing serious illnesses, sometimes terminal, hospice care and palliative care are two terms often used interchangeably. However, despite their similarities, they each have distinct purposes and are designed to address different needs. Understanding the differences between hospice care and palliative care is crucial for patients and their families in order to make informed decisions about the appropriate level of care needed for either themselves or a loved one.
In honor of World Hospice and Palliative Care Day coming up on October 14th, let’s discuss what sets these two forms of care apart and shed light on the invaluable support they provide to patients and their families during difficult times.
Hospice Care: Focusing on End-of-Life Comfort
Hospice care is a specialized form of care that tailors to individuals who are in the final stages of a terminal illness. The primary goal of hospice care is to enhance the quality of life for patients by managing their pain and symptoms without the use of aggressive treatment.
Hospice also provides emotional support for the patient and their family and improves their overall comfort. Doctors usually start it when curative treatment options are no longer effective or viable, and the prognosis indicates that the patient has a limited life expectancy, often estimated at six months or less.
As long as the patient receives care from a Medicare-certified hospice, they can receive hospice care benefits under Medicare Part A.
Key Characteristics of Hospice Care
In order to qualify for hospice care, a medical provider must diagnose a patient with a terminal illness with a prognosis of six months or less. That doesn’t mean a patient can’t receive hospice care benefits for longer than six months. After six months, the acting provider will re-evaluate the patient to determine if their prognosis has changed and if they still qualify to receive hospice care.
Hospice care places a strong emphasis on pain management, symptom control, and addressing the emotional and spiritual needs of patients. While under hospice care, patients are still permitted to take their prescribed medication as long as it is not being used to cure or treat their serious and terminal illnesses. However, patients can still take medications to treat other conditions or symptoms, such as high blood pressure or pain.
One of the benefits and comforting aspects of hospice is that care can be provided in a variety of settings, including the patient’s home, nursing homes, or hospice facilities. This helps to alleviate stress and provide options for the patient’s family.
Regardless of where the patient chooses to receive care, their hospice care is provided by a multidisciplinary team. This typically includes a range of professionals, including nurses, doctors, social workers, chaplains, and volunteers, all working together to provide holistic care. In addition to caring for the patient, the services provided by this diverse team extend to the patient’s family, often offering counseling and bereavement support.
Palliative Care: Improving Quality of Life at Any Stage
Palliative care offers a more extensive form of care that aims to enhance the quality of life for individuals with serious illnesses at any stage, regardless of their prognosis. While hospice care is exclusively for those in the end-of-life phase, palliative care can be provided alongside Life expectancy does not determine eligibility. Palliative care focuses on addressing pain, symptoms, and the emotional, psychological, and spiritual needs of patients.
Key Characteristics of Palliative Care
The main difference between hospice care and palliative care is that palliative care does not require a terminal illness diagnosis. It is available to individuals at any stage of a serious illness, whether they are seeking curative treatment or not. However, like hospice care, palliative care also takes a holistic approach to providing care, considering all aspects of a patient’s well-being, including physical, emotional, social, and spiritual needs.
Also, like hospice care, palliative care can be provided in various settings, including hospitals, clinics, outpatient facilities, and even at home, depending on the patient’s preferences and needs. And it, too, is provided by a multidisciplinary team. All care team members work collaboratively to provide the necessary care and treatment.
The primary goal of palliative care is to alleviate suffering, enhance the patient’s comfort, and improve their overall quality of life, regardless of their prognosis.
Key Differences Between Hospice Care and Palliative Care
Hospice and palliative care are two essential but distinct approaches to supporting individuals with serious illnesses. While hospice care tailors to those in the end-of-life phase, with a limited life expectancy, palliative care is available to anyone with a serious illness, regardless of prognosis.
Ultimately, although slightly different, both hospice and palliative care aim to enhance the quality of life for those facing serious illnesses, providing comfort, relief, and support during challenging times.