What is the Difference between Hospice and Palliative Care?
October 18 2022
Hospice vs. Palliative: Which is Right for Me?
Many people use the terms hospice and palliative interchangeably, so it is easy to get confused as to which type of care is right for your specific needs. While similar, these two types of services actually differ in some major ways.
In this article, we’ll take a look at the similarities and differences between hospice and palliative care, as well as the benefits of each.
Hospice vs. Palliative: The Similarities
Both hospice and palliative have a common focus, and that is comfort care. What do we mean by comfort care? As your body shuts down at the end of your life, it can actually become quite painful and uncomfortable. The same can be said for when you are being treated for an illness, such as chronic pain or cancer. Hospice and palliative use remedies, such as pain killers, to ease pain so that you can more fully enjoy life, whether you have decades ahead of you or only six months left.
Hospice vs. Palliative: The Differences
What makes hospice and palliative so different from one another comes down to eligibility and when the care takes place.
Hospice is also known as end of life care. It begins with a referral from the patient’s primary care doctor. This doctor makes the referral based on the patient’s condition. To be admitted into a hospice program and receive hospice benefits from your insurance, the patient must be considered terminal, or within six months of death. Once the patient has been referred, the hospice agency will make a determination of eligibility through interviewing the patient and family caregiver as well as making observations during that interview. Once admitted into a hospice program, the patient’s life saving treatments are ended and the care is solely focused on comfort and reducing pain. This allows the patient to enjoy what time they have left and be able to say their goodbyes.
Palliative care, on the other hand, has no time restrictions. Patients may receive care at any time or stage of their illness, whether it is considered terminal or not. Palliative care is also done in conjunction with life saving treatments. For example, a person going through chemo treatments for cancer may also receive palliative care to help offset the side effects of the chemo treatment.
Now that we have looked at the main similarities and differences, let’s dive into each type of care a bit further plus take a look at the benefits of each.
As mentioned previously, hospice care is end of life care. The main focus is on providing comfort to the patient during their final months and days and ends all life saving treatments. Hospice care is provided by a team of medical professionals, a counselor, a social worker, and a chaplain. The medical team focuses on comfort and relief from symptoms through things such as medications, while the other members of the hospice team focus on mental health, patient and family support, as well as any spiritual needs.
The hospice agency also provides services specifically for family caregivers and family members. They offer respite care for family caregivers but they also offer general support and counseling for the family of the patient. The support and counseling does not end when the patient passes; many agencies offer a period of time post-death for grief counseling.
The Benefits of Hospice Care
Most people associate hospice care with death, however, it is truly a celebration of life. By receiving comfort care, the patient’s focus shifts from pain and discomfort to being able to reminisce with family, say their goodbyes, and make any amends. Instead of spending their final days in treatment, the patient is able to do what makes them happy while the care team focuses on making them as comfortable as possible.
When is Hospice Care Right for Me?
Hospice care is for those whose doctors believe they have six months or less to live. The doctor must refer the patient to hospice. Once an agency is selected, the patient is evaluated by the agency to determine if they are indeed eligible for hospice. Once the patient is admitted into hospice, care begins straight away.
As previously stated, palliative care is comfort care done in conjunction with life saving treatments to ease the pain caused by the condition and/or to ease the side effects of treatment. Palliative care is provided by a specialized medical team and other professionals, including doctors, nurses, a social worker, a counselor, and a chaplain. Treatment is specifically tailored to the patient’s needs and not their prognosis.
The Benefits of Palliative Care
Overall, palliative care improves the quality of life for the patient, allowing them to enjoy what makes life worth living, even if seriously ill. When you alleviate or reduce the symptoms of the illness or the side effects of treatment, it can make it easier for you to do your daily activities and it can even help you match treatment options to your goals, giving you more control over your care. Palliative care also has been shown to reduce depression and can increase your life expectancy when compared to those who did not receive palliative care.
Palliative is like an extra layer of support as you work with your doctors to treat an illness. Not only does the palliative team provide support to the patient, but to the family as well, through respite care, education, or even as a shoulder to cry on. The palliative care team will also communicate with your treatment physicians to ensure everyone is on the same page.
When is Palliative Care Right for Me?
If you are suffering from a serious illness, stress caused by that illness, and are currently receiving life saving treatments with unwanted side effects, palliative care may be right for you.
If you are still unsure about whether you or your loved one needs palliative or hospice care, it is best to speak to your doctor to understand your options. Sometimes a patient may have the option to choose life saving treatments, but decline those treatments because they would rather spend time with family and friends than in a facility getting treated.
You can also receive both palliative and hospice care in the comfort of your own home. If you are in the Philadelphia area, All American would love to support you in your comfort care journey. We offer high quality care at an affordable price. Our caring professionals are highly trained and approach patient care in the same way that we would with our own family. Learn more about our services today.