The terms “palliative care” and “hospice care” are often used interchangeably but they are not the same. Hospice is only one type of palliative care that can be provided in the last six months of life. Traditionally, palliative care can be offered anytime during the course of a debilitating disease or serious illness and, ideally, should begin at the time of diagnosis.
Palliative care relieves and treats the symptoms of a chronic or life-limiting illness. Hospice care focuses on caring for, not curing, those with these same illnesses. When pain or symptoms become too difficult to manage at the place the patient calls home, or the caregiver needs respite time, hospice makes short-term inpatient care available. In addition, it can provide things like needed drugs, medical supplies, equipment and bereavement support and counseling to surviving family and friends.
Palliative care provides relief from pain and other distressing symptoms of a life-limiting and/or serious illness, providing a greater quality of life and daily living for both patients and their families. Palliative care relives suffering from symptoms of chronic diseases such as pain, nausea, fatigue, shortness of breath and depression.
There is no time frame for palliative care — it can be short-term or long-term. It provides comfort and support to patients who may eventually be cured or for those who will cope with lifelong diseases.
Palliative care can be provided at a hospital, in a nursing home or other long-term care facility or at the patient’s home.
Palliative care is prescribed by a doctor, who recognizes when there is a need for it. The care team may include palliative care physicians, primary care doctors, nurses, home health aides, social workers and chaplains. Care visits are typically once or twice a month.
Palliative care is paid for by the patient’s private insurance or by payers like Medicare and Medicaid.
Palliative care encompasses the whole self, caring for physical, emotional and spiritual needs and is often used in conjunction with hospice care.
Hospice care is provided at the end of someone’s life, recognizing that patients and families suffer differently when the end of life is nearing and may include some form of palliative care. Hospice care doesn't provide the expectation or even the suggestion of a cure. It's intended only to manage symptoms and to keep the patient comfortable until he or she passes away.
Hospice care is triggered by a timeframe — it cannot be recommended until a doctor certifies a patient is within six months of the end of life, but it can extend beyond six months if the patient outlives their diagnosis.
Hospice care can be provided at home, in a nursing home, at a hospital or in a hospice care facility such as HSWO’s Patient Care Center in Madiera, near Cincinnati, Ohio.
Patients may change doctors when entering hospice care, but some providers like HSWO allow you to keep your primary care doctor. Hospice providers have their own medical/clinical staff on-call 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Hospice care is covered 100 percent by payers like Medicare and Medicaid and some private insurances are accepted (amount of coverage will vary).
Hospice care assists the patient and their loved ones with the emotional, psychosocial and spiritual aspects of dying.