Comparing Palliative & Hospice Care - Understanding Palliative Care Compared to Hospice Care

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Feb 13, 2024

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Comparing Palliative & Hospice Care

 Understanding Palliative Care Compared to Hospice Care


Some older adults and people with serious illnesses, unfortunately, experience the end of life in certain healthcare settings that do not align with their desired wishes. If you have a serious illness or are a caregiver of someone planning end-of-life care, knowing the difference between palliative care and hospice care can help you make an informed decision when the time comes to transition to one of these healthcare settings.

What Is Palliative Care?

Palliative care is a form of care that focuses on improving your quality of life and that of your family when you are living with a serious illness. It focuses on your whole-person health rather than only on your condition. If you are receiving palliative care, your treatment plan may focus on reducing symptoms of your illness and on improving secondary conditions such as depression, sleep deprivation, and side effects of medications.

Palliative care may be given in various healthcare settings, such as at the hospital, a residential care facility, or your home. Anyone can receive this type of care regardless of age or the severity of their condition.

If you receive palliative care, you may work with and be treated by various healthcare professionals, including doctors, nurses, social workers, pharmacists, physical therapists, counselors, and nutritionists. If you need spiritual care, your palliative care team may even include a chaplain. The healthcare professionals that make up your palliative care team will depend mainly on your recovery needs and level of care.

Studies show that palliative care offers many benefits, including:

Reduction in pain, nausea, and shortness of breath

Improved communication among patients, their loved ones, and their healthcare providers

Increased emotional support

High-quality care that aligns with the patient’s wishes

Reduction in stress

Increased confidence surrounding decision-making related to care

Ability to meet the emotional and spiritual needs of the patients and their loved ones

 What Is Hospice Care?

Hospice care focuses on improving your comfort and quality of life when you are nearing the end of your life. This type of care is usually given in circumstances in which an illness continues to progress despite treatment or when the patient chooses not to receive certain treatments. Hospice care is similar to palliative care in that it provides comfort care and support for the family. However, treatments are not given to improve the illness.

Like palliative care, hospice care can be given in many different healthcare settings, though it is most frequently given at your home, where you can be most comfortable and spend quality time with your loved ones. In addition, it is typically given when your healthcare provider believes you have no more than six months to live. Some benefits of hospice care include 24/7 access to nurses and healthcare workers who can address and relieve symptoms and side effects and access to medical equipment and medications that can reduce your discomfort.

Many of the same types of healthcare professionals that make up a palliative care team will also be part of your hospice care team. This includes doctors, nurses, social workers, chaplains, and volunteers who dedicate their time to giving you the support you need and making you feel as comfortable as possible during your final months.

To be eligible for hospice care, you will discontinue aggressive treatment efforts to combat your terminal illness (such as experimental surgeries, aggressive chemotherapy, or other treatments that require prolonged hospitalization and recovery).   However, you may continue to receive treatments for other conditions, such as antidepressants to treat depression or insulin medicines to control Diabetes.   

What Is Comfort Care and End-of-Life Care?

Comfort care and end-of-life care are both terms that describe the type of care you receive when you are near the end of your life and are no longer receiving treatment for your illness. It is highly similar to palliative care in providing you with whole-person care that focuses on your physical, social, emotional, and spiritual health. Comfort care and end-of-life care may include palliative care or hospice care, or a combination of both.

What Are the Main Differences Between Palliative Care and Hospice Care?

Sometimes, palliative care is given as part of hospice care, and both types share many similarities. For instance, the goal of both palliative and hospice care is to improve your quality of life and help you find relief from painful and severe symptoms and side effects of treatment. Both types of care also focus on whole-person health. However, there remain many differences between palliative care and hospice care.

Some of these differences are:

Palliative care can be given to anyone with a serious illness, regardless of the stage of their disease. In comparison, hospice care is typically only given when a person has less than six months to live and is at the end of their life.

Palliative care can be given simultaneously when the patient receives other treatments for their condition, such as chemotherapy or radiation therapy. Hospice care is usually given when treatment for the illness has stopped, and the goal of care is to manage the patient’s symptoms for the remainder of life.

The healthcare professionals on a palliative care team work separately from the patient’s primary care team that is treating the illness. In comparison, the healthcare professionals on a hospice care team handle the majority of the care and collaborate with the patient’s primary care team as necessary.

 Who Should Consider Palliative Care?

You may want to consider palliative care if you or your loved one has a serious illness or chronic condition that requires long, intensive care or that causes severe physical symptoms and/or emotional distress. For example, cancer, heart disease, AIDS, and kidney failure are some of the many conditions that can benefit from palliative care.

Additionally, palliative care may benefit you if you:

Want relief from severe physical pain you are experiencing due to your illness

Are experiencing emotional pain or psychological conditions that you are unable to control

Want to continue to receive treatment for your condition

Want tips and guidance on how to effectively manage your condition

Need guidance with choosing the best treatment

Need help understanding your illness

Want to receive treatment at home or outside of a traditional hospital setting

Have loved ones who are involved with your treatment

Need help transitioning from one treatment setting to another

When Would Someone Transition From Palliative Care To Hospice Care?

A person may transition from palliative care to hospice care if their doctor thinks they have no longer than six months to live. Sometimes, it can be difficult for doctors to predict exactly how long it will take for a particular disease to run its course or how long a person has left to live if their health is in decline. In these circumstances, it’s important to consider how transitioning to hospice care could improve your quality of life during your final months.

According to the National Library of Medicine (NLM), doctors should strongly consider referring chronically ill patients to hospice care if they spend more than half their time in bed, are unable to function efficiently, and are experiencing both physical and psychological distress. The NLM adds that hospice referrals are usually necessary when the patient’s condition has progressively declined to the point that their highest priority is to take control of their healthcare and achieve the greatest possible comfort in their homes as they near the end of life.

Talk to your doctor if you think you may need hospice care but aren’t sure when you should transition out of palliative care. Your doctor can talk to you at length about your options and the benefits of transitioning to hospice care based on your condition and unique circumstances.

Taking advantage of hospice care as soon as it’s needed could result in access to quality care and lots of extra quality time to spend with your loved ones. Additionally, studies show that patients who plan their care in advance are more likely to be satisfied with their care, given how they can make decisions that align with their end-of-life wishes.

How to Get Palliative Care or Hospice Care

Consult with your healthcare provider if you or your loved one is interested in learning more about palliative care or hospice care. Your doctor can refer you to a palliative or hospice care specialist who can answer all your questions and help you determine which of these services may be more ideal.

Palliative care and hospice care are covered by many major health insurance providers, including Medicare. The exact benefits covered will vary based on your health plan. Benefits covered may include medical equipment and supplies, skilled nursing care, bereavement support, and medications to provide comfort, among many others.

Hospice At Your Side has resources for home health and hospice services throughout the United States. Specialty services we offer include diabetes care, orthopedics, and pain management. Call us today to learn more about our many home healthcare services.

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Understanding the Many Benefits of Hospice Care

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How to Support a Grieving Friend Who Has Lost a Loved One

Unfortunately, its likely to happen to each of us when we least expect it: we hear the news that a friend or family member has lost a loved one through an unexpected or expected death. We may have an immediate feeling of doubt about how we should respond. What do we say? What do we do? What if we say or do the wrong thing?These are important questions because what we say or do can either relieve emotional pain or make it worse.Yet, by understanding a few important things about grieving and mourning we can be confident that we can help and not hurt.Understand the Many Faces of Emotional ShockEven when a death is expectedlike after a long, serious illnessyour friend is probably experiencing a roller coaster of strong emotions. According to the American Cancer Society, the shock of losing a loved one can manifest itself anywhere from disbelief, anger, uncertainty, denial or numbness. In my own experience, Ive seen people whose numbness is misinterpreted as peace or acceptance, leading others to say, Shes so strong or Hes taking this so wellyet when the funeral is over and everyone has gone home, they fall apart.Remember that your friend is likely to feel many emotional ups and downsand a period of strength might be followed by real anguish.Communicate Your Sorrow SimplyIm so sorry for your loss, or I wish I knew what to sayplease know that I care, are simple and comforting ways to let your friend know that you care. When we stray into clichslike Shes in a better place now, or It was his time to go,the person who is grieving may feel wounded because they simply want their loved one at their side. This can be especially true of parents who have lost children.If youre completely unsure of what to say, being nearbyyet silentalso communicates that you care.Show Your Support through ServiceYou can decrease your own feelings of helplessness or powerlessness by serving your grieving friend. However, during the strongest moments of grief your friend may not be able to tell you what he or she needs. If thats the case, you might consider doing anything that may be helpfullike mowing their lawn, doing their dishes, or helping them with the funeral. But remember that your service shouldnt end with the funeral.Thoughtful service will continue to show your concern.Listening May Be the Most Helpful Thing You Can DoYour friend may need to talk often. He or she may have to discuss the details of their loved ones deathand may need to talk about it repeatedly. This can be part of the grieving process and you can help by being a patient, non-judgmental, listening ear.But take your cues from your friend because talking about their loved one might be painful. One friend recently told me, One of the most difficult things for us was when someone wouldcasually [mention our childs name]. To us, mentioning his name was a reverent thing that we didnt do very often except among each other. Even then, we were careful about it. It felt very jarring when others were too casual about it.Dont Rush the Grieving ProcessExperts in the field of emotional health and grieving concur that the processand timeframeof grieving is different for everyone. As a friend, you need to be ready for the long haul. It may literally take years for a grieving person to feel stable with their emotions. Encouraging them to get outside and take part in social activities may be helpful, but shouldnt be forced. Give your friend time to adjust to their feelings and emotions and dont be surprised if their grieving lasts much longer than you expect.Dont be Offended if Your Friend Shows AngerAnger can be a normal emotion during the grieving process. Grief can heighten negative emotions and a normally kind person who is grieving may strike out at others emotionally. Understand that its a product of their grief and dont take it personally. You can support them best by maintaining a level head and forgiving them when theyre not at their best.Grief and Mourning Shouldnt be Interpreted as a Lack of Religious FaithAbout half the people in the world believe in an afterlifeand that belief is typically tied to religious views. While those who are grieving may find comfort in their belief that their loved one lives on in some other realm, that belief may not override the pain of separation. Often, grieving is about being separated from our loved onesregardless of our beliefs.Id love to hear your thoughts on this subject, so please leave a comment in the comments box. I also invite you to subscribe to this blogwhich will cover a variety of healthcare topics.A short post cant cover everything, so if youd like more information on this topic I encourage you to research the Five Stages of Grief by Elizabeth Kubler-Ross. Also, see the U.S. Governments excellent A LifeCare Guide to Helping Others Cope with Grief. If youre concerned that your friends grief has developed into thoughts of hurting themselves or others, please contact a mental health professional.This post is dedicated to the memory of Bailey Rae Bullock, Matthew Bullock, Dan Bishop, Joe Adams, Michelle Pereira, and the many others who's passing profoundly affected me.

How Hospice Care Supports Patients & Families Alike

Hospice is a specialized form of medical care that focuses on providing comfort and support to individuals facing life-limiting illnesses, such as cancer, heart disease, or lung disease, among others. It aims to help patients and their families be more comfortable and confident while providing the best medical attention possible.Hospice care provides a holistic approach to care, addressing not only the physical needs of the patient but also the emotional, spiritual, and social needs of both the patient and their family. This approach helps patients to be as comfortable as possible, by reducing pain and other symptoms, and allowing them to focus on their well-being and quality of life. Hospice care can also provide relief to family members who are struggling to cope with the physical and emotional demands of caring for a loved one.One of the key benefits of hospice care is the team of healthcare professionals, called the interdisciplinary team, that work together to provide comprehensive care. This team may include a physician, nurse, social worker, chaplain, and a volunteer, all working together to ensure that the patients needs are met. Hospice care also provides access to a variety of services and resources, such as counseling, support groups, and home health aides, all designed to help patients and families be as comfortable and confident as possible.Hospice care is typically provided in the patients home, although some hospice programs may offer inpatient services, such as a hospice center or hospital, for patients who require more intensive care. This allows patients to receive the medical attention they need while remaining in a familiar and comfortable environment.Another important aspect of hospice care is the focus on end-of-life care and decision-making. Hospice care providers work with patients and families to help them understand what to expect as the patients illness progresses and to help them make informed decisions about end-of-life care. This may include decisions about treatment options, symptom management, and advance care planning.In conclusion, hospice care provides a unique approach to medical care, focusing on providing comfort and support to patients and families facing life-limiting illnesses. The holistic approach of hospice care, the team of healthcare professionals, and the focus on end-of-life care, all help to make patients and families more comfortable and confident while receiving the best medical attention possible.