Both palliative and hospice care offer comfort care for individuals suffering from a debilitating illness. However, the outcomes of both care options differ slightly. Hospice care is offered as an option to patients who have no intention of curing their illnesses, and wish to pass on as peacefully and painlessly as possible. Palliative care, on the other hand, is comfort care that can be used with or without curative intent, but is usually more focused on managing the illness for life rather than managing the illness until death.
What is palliative care?
Those living with a serious illness have the option of receiving palliative care. The Center to Advance Palliative Care has a great article that defines it as care that is “focused on providing relief from the symptoms and stress of the illness. The goal is to improve quality of life for both the patient and the family.”
A palliative care team is comprised of doctors, nurses, and other specialists that all work in collaboration with the patient’s primary doctor to offer additional support. The article also states that “palliative care is based on the needs of the patient, not on the patient’s prognosis.” A patient can receive palliative care at any age and stage of their illness. It may also be performed alongside any curative treatment.
What is hospice care?
Some patients reach the point where their treatment no longer serves a purpose. For those advanced cases, hospice care focuses on providing compassionate care for individuals and their families who are in the final phases of incurable diseases so that they can end their days as comfortably as possible.
As The American Cancer Society puts it on their website, hospice “affirms life, but does not try to hasten or postpone death. Hospice care treats the person and symptoms of the disease, rather than treating the disease itself.” A team of doctors works together to ensure that the patient’s symptoms are managed, ultimately allowing the patient’s final days to be fulfilling, restful, and spent with loved ones. Hospice care always includes the patient and their family in all decisions.
Breaking it down further…
Both hospice and palliative care deliver symptom relief, yet, there are some very important differences beyond what was stated above. They include but are not limited to:
- Eligibility. In order for an individual to be eligible for hospice care, two physicians have to declare that they have less than six months to live. Palliative care, on the other hand, can be recommended by the doctor at any moment during their illness, regardless of if it is terminal or not.
- Cost. Medicare, Medicaid, and private insurance all fully cover hospice care. Hospice care is the only benefit that includes pharmaceuticals, medical equipment, 24/7 access to care, nursing, social services, chaplain visits, grief support, and other appropriate services. However, palliative care and services can vary in both cost and coverage.
- Location. The foundation of hospice is providing comfort in the final days of life; therefore, it is usually conducted in the patient’s home or in a home-like facility. Palliative care teams usually work out of a hospital setting.
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