There is often confusion among patients and families about the difference between palliative care and hospice care. This is not surprising. The terms are often used interchangeably even by health care professionals. While palliative care is sometimes offered by hospice providers, it differs in treatment, focus, goals and services from palliative care provided to chronically ill patients.
Physicians may refer a patient living with a serious illness or chronic health condition at any stage of the illness to a palliative care provider. They do so because they believe the patient would benefit from having a team of health care professionals working with the primary care physician to treat the illness in an interdisciplinary way. That may include emotional support to help cope with the limitations a chronic illness can cause for a patient.
It can include access to pain management professionals who may offer a new perspective on pain and symptom management. Palliative care also helps to prevent the frequent re-hospitalizations that are frustrating, expensive and exhausting for patients with a serious or chronic health condition.
With hospice care, the focus is on providing comprehensive end-of-life care. The goal is to improve the pain and symptoms of dying patients and help them to manage their physical, emotional and spiritual needs at the end of their lives. Hospice patients must be certified by a physician that their life expectancy is six months or less to be covered by Medicare and are not pursuing curative or aggressive treatments.
A patient receiving palliative care does not have those limitations and can begin services at any stage of the illness. In fact, in many cases patients are undergoing aggressive treatments to try to fight diseases like cancer. Palliative care focuses on pain and symptom management with a goal of helping patients live the best quality of life possible given the limitations of their illness.
While both palliative care and hospice care offer a team of specialists that work in partnership with the patient’s primary care physician, the interdisciplinary hospice care team also:
- Manages the patient’s pain and symptoms
- Provides hospice diagnosis related equipment, medications and supplies
- Supports the patients and their families emotional, psychosocial and spiritual needs
- Educates and coaches the family on caring for the patient
- Makes short-term inpatient care and respite care available to patients when symptoms get too difficult to manage at home or the caregiver needs a break; and
- Provides bereavement services for the patient’s family and friends
As end of life experts, our team at Halcyon Hospice is experienced at pain and symptom management, providing comfort and support to our patients and peace of mind to their loved ones.
If you have questions about hospice care and whether your loved one qualifies, please contact us at 855-328-1700 or visit us online at www.ExcellenceInHospice.com.