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Hospice vs. Palliative Care

Nan Wetherhorn, RN, BSN, iRNPA

Although there are similarities of hospice care and palliative care, there are some differences that you should be aware of. This way if you are ever faced with this option for you or a loved one, you can choose which level of care is best.

What is Hospice Care?

Hospice is comfort care without the intent to cure a disease or diagnosis. The goal of hospice is comfort, care, and quality of life for people that are facing a terminal illness with a prognosis of six months or less. Hospice care eligibility requires that two physicians certify the patient has less than six months to live. Hospice is an approach to care, not a specific place, so it can take place in the home, or in a home-like residence including nursing homes, assisted living facilities, hospitals, and other facilities.

After you are approved for hospice care, you are provided with a team of trained individuals including nurses, doctors, social workers, and spiritual supervisors. The team will work closely with the patient and family to provide comprehensive medical, emotional, and spiritual support. Hospice care costs are paid by Medicare, Medicaid, and private insurance. With hospice care, you will get a hospice team visit regularly. Only until the projected last 5 days of life will they provide you with 24/7 care. Although hospice provides a lot of support, the day-to-day care of a person dying at home is provided by the family (private caregivers can be hired to help the family with the care)

What is Palliative Care?

Palliative care is compassionate comfort care that provides relief of both physical and mental symptoms from a serious or life-threatening illness. This level of care is meant to enhance a patient’s current care by focusing on the quality of life for them and their family. Palliative care can be pursued at diagnosis, during curative treatment, and at the end of life. It can be initiated by a physician at any time, and at any stage of illness even if it’s not terminal.

Palliative care provides an interdisciplinary care team of nurses, doctors, social workers, and spiritual supervisors to help the well-being of the patient and family members. Some diseases or diagnoses that palliative care might be appropriate for include heart failure, COPD, cancer, dementia, Parkinson’s disease, and many others. Palliative care can be provided in hospitals, nursing homes, outpatient palliative care clinics, or at home. Only certain Medicare and Medicaid plans cover palliative care. Private insurances might also pay for some palliative care services, but is dependent on your coverage.

Make sure to talk with your family and doctor about your goals of care and whether hospice or palliative care might help to improve your quality of life.

 Waste no more time and contact an RN patient advocate today. Not only will this ease your own concerns, but will ease the pressure on your family as well.