Hospice vs. Palliative Care: Discover the Difference

By May 24, 2017 Hospice

Serious illness is stressful on the patient and their family. Discover the difference between palliative care and hospice to help you and your family make the best decision for care.

Learning that you or someone you love is seriously ill is a very emotional and stressful time. There are many options to choose from as far as treatment and care- where do you start? What is the goal? Is it to fight the disease and try to prolong life or is it about achieving comfort and enjoying the time that is left? Hospice and/or palliative care may be options for you and your family to consider.

Hospice care and palliative care are similar to each other, but do have a few distinct differences. Hospice is comfort care without the goal of prolonging one’s life- the patient no longer has curative intent or has chosen not to pursue treatment. Palliative care is comfort care that may or may not include treatment with curative intent. But, they both have one goal in common: caring for the individual affected by the critical illness and providing comfort & support during this time.

Palliative care is a specialized medical care program designed to help people with serious illness. It focuses on helping the patient find relief from the symptoms of the disease that is afflicting them. The goal is to improve the quality of life for the patient, as well as provide care and support to their family.

What is palliative care used for?

Palliative care may be a good option for you or a loved one if you are experiencing pain, stress or other symptoms due to a serious illness. Serious illnesses include (but are not limited to): cancer, cardiac disease, respiratory disease, kidney failure, Alzheimer’s, AIDS, ALS and Multiple Sclerosis (MS). Palliative care is an option at any stage of a serious illness and can be used in conjunction with life prolonging treatment.

What does palliative care do?

  • Pain & Symptom control: your doctor and palliative care team will work closely with you or your loved one to identify what pain and symptoms are being experienced and create a plan of treatment to ease them. This may include medication, physical therapy, massage therapy or relaxation techniques.
  • Emotional support: palliative care focuses on more than just the illness and team palliative care members are there to provide support and encouragement to the patient.
  • Family/Caregiver support: during this stressful time, the palliative care team also makes sure to ease the stress and emotional needs of the patient’s family and caregiver.

Does insurance cover palliative care?

Most insurance plans cover all or part of the palliative care program. Medicare and Medicaid usually cover all or part, as well. If you have questions or concerns about whether your insurance will cover palliative care, be sure to contact the social worker at the palliative care facility you are interested in using.

Where do I or a loved one receive palliative care?

The most common place that you or a loved one will receive palliative care is at a medical institution, such a hospital or out-patient office. Palliative care teams may include doctors, nurses, social workers, pharmacists and dieticians. Another option would be to receive care at home after you begin your palliative care program.

Hospice provides care and support to people with terminal illness. Hospice is available for those who have either decided not to use curative measures or for those that have exhausted curative measures and want to enjoy the time that is left. Most patients who choose hospice are generally considered terminal and have less than 6 months to live.

What is hospice used for?

Hospice concentrates on easing the pain- physical, emotional and spiritual- of the patient’s illness. The emphasis is on controlling the pain and symptoms during the advanced stages of the disease with different techniques including medication, music therapy and massage therapy. Hospice also provides emotional and spiritual support that is specific for the needs of the patient and their family.

What does hospice do?

Simply put, hospice creates a comfortable environment for people in the advanced stages of a terminal illness. These patients are not exercising curative care, they are only trying to enjoy the time that they have left. Hospice also provides a supportive community for the patient’s family and caregiver.

Does insurance cover hospice?

Hospice is covered by many insurance providers, including Medicare and Medicaid.

Where do I or a loved one receive hospice?

After a patient is enrolled in a hospice program, care is generally given at their home, a relative’s home or nursing home. This provides a comfortable and familiar environment for the patient and their loved ones.

Rocky Mountain Care is a leading provider of hospice care, home health care, and skilled nursing facilities. We strongly believe that each of our patients is special and unique, and deserves the highest respect and service possible. Our care and specialized programs meet the needs of our patients and their families. The end of one’s life is a very frightening and sad time; both palliative care and hospice can help ease the physical and emotional pain of the patient and their family. Please contact us today to learn more.