Hospice versus palliative care


The opportunity to live independently is a goal for many people as they plan for retirement. While there’s much people can do to plan for financial independence in their golden years, health issues may arise that can make it hard for aging adults to get through the day without a little help.

Palliative care and hospice are sometimes mistaken as the same thing, even though they’re quite different. Learning about each option can help adults identify which option is best for them should they one day require daily assistance.

Palliative care

Palliative care may be available at any time for individuals with serious and potentially life-threatening conditions. According to Healthline, palliative care is focused on improving the overall wellness of individuals with serious illnesses, such as Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, COPD, and other chronic illnesses. Since it is based on individuals’ needs, palliative care can differ from one person to the next. 

WebMD says a palliative care program frequently aims to ease pain and help with other problems, including improving comfort. It is used in addition to other treatments. Palliative care also can help patients and their families if an illness makes it more difficult to get around, leads to depression or adversely affects the family, including caregivers.

Hospice care

The National Institute on Aging notes that hospice care may be recommended when it is no longer possible to cure a serious illness or when a patient opts out of certain treatments. Like palliative care, hospice provides comprehensive comfort care and family support. However, attempts to cure the person’s illness are stopped in hospice. Hospice is typically recommended when a person with a terminal illness has around six months or less to live.

When people hear “going into hospice” they may think this means entering a facility. However, hospice can take place in many different settings, including at home, in a nursing home, in a hospital, or even a facility that specializes in hospice care.

Both palliative and hospice care bring together a team of health care professionals with special skills. This team can include doctors, nurses, social workers, therapists, spiritual advisors, and trained volunteers. Everyone works together to address patients’ emotional, medical and spiritual needs.

The main difference between the palliative and hospice care is when each is offered to a patient. Palliative care can be available at any time, regardless of illness stage, prognosis or life expectancy. Hospice care is only available when an illness is no longer responding to treatment. However, a person can come out of hospice care should his or her condition begin to improve. 

Patients and their families can discuss the options of different care with their health care teams. While these types of care have become much more accessible in recent years, they may not be available everywhere. It also pays to ask questions about health insurance coverage to determine if the costs of palliative or hospice care will be covered by a provider. A long-term care policy also may be an option to cover palliative services. (MC) 

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