You may have heard these terms before, but never fully understood:
Hospice Care and Palliative Care, and what is the difference between the two?
Palliative Care is appropriate for anyone seeking pain and symptom management. You can receive palliative care at any age and at any stage of illness; you can also have it along with curative treatment and it is not dependent on the prognosis. (Jump to Lessons Learned)
Although palliative care is applicable for many conditions, we generally consider it in the context of managing symptoms due to a serious illness, including cancer, chronic heart or lung conditions, progressive neurological conditions, such as Parkinson’s Disease, as well as other chronic conditions.
Palliative care is also appropriate for a person who has been debilitated by an injury or the result of a surgical procedure; these are conditions where treatment is needed, not only to address the main disease or condition, but also to manage pain and other symptoms.
For instance, as an individual goes through chemotherapy to cure cancer, the physician will also address the digestive disruptions, the feelings of anxiety and exhaustion or any other side effects that the patient may be experiencing. In addition, if the patient’s family needs help in coping, a social worker can provide support. In fact, one of the most important things your palliative care team can do, is to help the family discuss a plan for managing the current health situation for their loved one. All of these supportive services are considered palliative care. They improve the quality of your life while you and your physician take curative measure to battle your health crisis.
Palliative care, doctor office visits and prescription drug charges are typically paid for by the patient’s insurance company, as well as the patient and possible by charitable organizations.
While the objective of both hospice and palliative care is to provide pain and symptom relieve, the prognosis and goals for care tend to be different. In both hospice and palliative care, the focus is on comfort and relieving symptoms, such as pain, shortness of breath, fatigue, nausea and insomnia, while providing practical advice and emotional and spiritual support for both the patient and family.
Both palliative care and hospice care are delivered wherever the patient calls home. This includes private residences, in home-like hospice residences, nursing homes, assisted living communities, hospitals and other facilities.
The goal of Hospice Care is to minimize the pain and suffering of a person with limited life expectancy. It is not used to cure the illness, but rather the patient no longer has curative options and has chosen to not pursue any additional treatment. This can be due to the unwanted side effects, which in the end, do not outweigh the benefits.
Patients and families interact with their physician to decide when the best course of treatment changes from curative to comfort-based care. While each person is different, generally, these are the major factors in determining when a person should seek hospice support.
- Either the person has chosen not to pursue curative treatment or the person has received curative treatment and is no longer benefiting from it.
- The person does not qualify for an appropriate clinical trial.
Hospice eligibility requires the physician to certify that the patient has less than six months to live if the disease follows its usual course.
Hospice services relating to the main hospice diagnosis are 100% covered by Medicare, Medicaid and some private insurance. These diagnosis-related benefits include pharmaceuticals, medical equipment, 24/7 access to nursing care, social services, chaplain visits and grief support following a death.
When seeing palliative or hospice care, consult with your physician. Your physician will discuss with you the appropriate course of treatment and make referrals to a certified provider in your area.
- You can receive palliative care to manage a chronic disease (e.g cancer) or pain, without being in/on hospice. Under palliative care, you can still receive chemo or other curative procedures, medicines and treatments.
- The palliative care team is there for the patient’s family as well as the patient. Support services includes help in coping, help in planning how to manage the current health situation.
- Palliative care is maybe paid for by Medicare Part B, insurance (LTC?) or private pay.
- Doctors and nurses can be certified in palliative care. To find palliative care physicians, the US News website allows you to look up providers in your state, by county. You may have to travel a bit to receive care. US News: Palliative Care Specialists
- To find nurses certified in palliative care, or palliative care consulting services, look for Home Health organizations like the Moorestown VNA. They may have a Palliative Care program or Palliative Consult services.
- Access to 24/7 nursing care for Hospice, does not mean a nurse will be in your home 24/7. It means access to supportive services like training, getting questions answered and supporting you as you care for your loved one. To learn more: The Two Biggest Misconceptions About Hospice.
This article was written and previously publisher by Moorestown Visiting Nurses & Hospice. It is used with permission.
Disclaimer: The material in this blog is for educational purposes only. It is not intended to replace, nor does it replace, consulting with a physician, lawyer, accountant, financial planner or other qualified professional.