Palliative and hospice care are both forms of treatment that can provide comfort to those suffering from advanced illness. However, the overall goal of treatment sets them apart. Hospice care becomes a treatment option when the patient is unable to recover from their illness. It has no curative intent. On the other hand, palliative care is comfort care that can be used with or without curative treatment.
What is palliative care?
The Center to Advance Palliative Care, in their “About Palliative Care” article, defined palliative care as “specialized medical care for people living with a serious illness. This type of care is focused on providing relief from the symptoms and stress of the illness.” It improves the quality of life for the patient and their family as well.
The article also shares that “care is provided by a specially-trained team of doctors, nurses and other specialists who work together with a patient’s other doctors to provide an extra layer of support.” Their main concern in performing palliative care is addressing the needs of the patient, not their prognosis. As palliative care can be done at any age and stage of the illness, along with any curative treatment.
What is hospice care?
As the American Cancer Society defines it on their website, hospice care is a compassionate form of care that is available for those who are experiencing an advanced illness. It focuses on creating a comfortable environment for people in the last phases of their incurable diseases.
As their editorial team states, hospice “affirms life, but does not try to hasten or postpone death. Hospice care treats the person and symptoms of the disease, rather than treating the disease itself.” A team of physicians works together to ensure that the last days of the patient are spent in dignity, surrounded by their loved ones. When it comes to making decisions, hospice care heavily involves both the patient and the family to make sure that everyone feels supported and gets the closure they need.
The Cares Compared
As mentioned previously, hospice and palliative care use a team of doctors to relieve the pain and symptoms of advanced illnesses. They aside from the goal of treatment, there are other important distinctions, including:
- Eligibility. To be eligible for hospice care, two physicians must declare that a patient has less than six months to live. Palliative care can be started by a doctor at any point during their illness, whether it is terminal or not.
- Cost. The cost for hospice care is fully covered by Medicare, Medicaid, and private insurance. Hospice care is the only benefit that includes pharmaceuticals, medical equipment, 24/1 access to care, nursing, social services, chaplain visits, grief counseling, and any other necessary services. Palliative care, however, can vary with costs and coverage.
- Location. Palliative care teams usually work out of a hospital. While hospice is conducted at home or in home-like facilities.
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