Palliative care is specialized care for people living with a chronic or terminal illness and is intended to improve a patient’s quality of life by providing relief of symptoms. This can often come in the form of pain management, counseling, and general support given to a patient experiencing a chronic or terminal illness. Palliative care is always a part of hospice care (care given to patients in end-of-life treatment of a terminal illness), but there are several important differences between the two that patients and caregivers should be aware of. Here are five common questions and answers about the difference between palliative care and hospice care.
1. Where do palliative care and hospice care take place?
Palliative care will often be performed in out-patient settings, hospital, or in a patient’s home. Hospice care will often be performed in the patient’s home where they are surrounded by a familiar and comforting environment, but they may also occur in an inpatient hospice unit.
2. Who performs treatment?
Palliative care is usually administered by doctors, nurses, and other healthcare providers, while hospice care is often performed by family members, designated caregivers, and skilled hospice nurses.
3. Who qualifies for palliative care and hospice care?
Palliative care is for treatment of serious illnesses such as cancer, congestive heart failure (CHF), kidney disease, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, ALS, and many more. Hospice care is for almost any patient with a terminal illness as long as two physicians have certified the illness as terminal and if the patient is within the last 6 months of their life.
4. When can I receive services?
Palliative care can happen at any point of a chronic or terminal illness. It can begin at the point of diagnosis and occur at the same time as curative treatments. Hospice typically begins after treatment of a disease has stopped and it is clear the patient will not survive the illness.
5. What is the purpose of palliative care and hospice care?
Palliative care is meant to improve quality of life by reducing the severity of symptoms like pain, depression, fatigue, nausea, loss of appetite, difficulty sleeping, anxiety, and other symptoms associated with serious illnesses. Some palliative care programs provide life-prolonging treatment while others concentrate mostly on end-of-life care, similar to hospice care. Palliative care is always a component of hospice care, but hospice care additionally provides physical, psychosocial, and spiritual treatment to a patient during a terminal illness.
Palliative care can provide relief from distressing symptoms during a time of illness, and hospice care can provide relief and comfort to patients during a terminal illness as well as respite care for caregivers. However, both can be covered under Medicare Part A hospital insurance.
If you think you qualify for palliative care or hospice services, talk with your doctor about which treatment option is right for you.