It’s never easy to watch a family member undergo extensive medical treatments. If the condition is terminal or the symptoms are extremely painful, it may be time to consider palliative or hospice care.

How Do Palliative and Hospice Care Differ?

Smiling old patient in bed talking to nurse

Palliative care is designed for patients who have a serious illness, such as cancer, heart disease, multiple sclerosis or chronic lung disease. The purpose of this type of care is to reduce pain and discomfort through symptom management.

Whether a patient is suffering through aches and swelling or coughing and fatigue, palliative care can address the symptoms and enhance the current quality of life. Although palliative care is not meant to treat conditions, it may be paired with a curative treatment.

If a patient has a terminal illness or their pain levels are too high, they may be better suited for hospice care, or end-of-life care. Hospice services focus solely on relief and pain management. The central purpose is to create a comfortable, peaceful environment that enhances quality of life as much as possible. Most hospice patients transition to this type of care when they have a life expectancy of less than six months.

Of course, deciding that it’s time for palliative or hospice care is always difficult. It’s normal for patients to be stressed, upset or even angry as they transition from curative care to pain management or end-of-life care. However, it’s important not to delay this decision — shifting ahead of time helps ensure that your family member lives out their final months in peace and dignity. Here are some of the top benefits of starting hospice care early.

1. Enhanced Quality of Life

Both hospice and palliative care are designed to enhance the quality of life by focusing on physical, mental and social wellness. Through pain management and symptom management, hospice care focuses on making terminally ill patients as comfortable as possible, which consequently makes the remainder of life more enjoyable. Moreover, the sooner treatment begins, the more quality time a patient has to spend with friends and family members.

2. Fewer Hospitalizations

Those in a palliative care or hospice program are less likely to be admitted to hospitals than patients enrolled in curative treatments. This means that, in the event a hospice patient passes away, they’re more likely to be at home than in a hospital. Being able to peacefully pass away while surrounded by family members and loved ones is one of the key benefits of starting hospice care early.

3. Decreased Depressive Symptoms

Physical symptoms are not the only side effects of many curative treatments. It’s common for terminally ill patients to develop depressive symptoms in response to pain, hospitalizations and the lack of contact with friends and family members. As part of their jobs, hospice providers focus on the mental well-being of their patients. Early hospice care is helpful for addressing and preventing common mental health problems.

4. Longer Survival Rates

Although treatment is not the focus of palliative or hospice care, both of these care types have been linked to longer survival rates. According to a study conducted by American Family Physician, one day of hospice care can increase life expectancy by up to three months. Moreover, these extra days in hospice typically come with a higher quality of life.

Breast cancer research offers similar statistics regarding palliative care. According to the research, 63% of patients who started early palliative care (immediately after diagnosis) were still alive after one year. In comparison, just 48% of patients who began palliative care three months after diagnosis were still alive.

5. Cost-Effectiveness

Not only does beginning hospice care sooner promote quality of life, but it can also help save on medical expenses. The lower rate of hospitalizations for palliative and hospice care patients translates to decreased costs. According to a study conducted on health care costs, hospice patients saved approximately $19,000 compared to non-hospice patients during a five- to eight-week stay. Patients can also save money if they have a Medicare hospice benefit or private health insurance.

6. Emotional Support

Early palliative and hospice care doesn’t just benefit patients — it supports their loved ones as well. Watching a beloved friend or family member undergo a life-limiting illness can be extremely stressful and upsetting. If a patient passes away in a hospital, their loved ones may not have time to process the death. Hospice care providers, on the other hand, work with family members to prepare them emotionally. Transitioning to this type of care early gives loved ones a chance to spend time with the patient and provides the support they need to navigate this difficult situation.

PRN Hospice

As a patient makes the move toward end-of-life care, it’s important that they have a sensitive, empathetic team of caregivers surrounding them. At PRN Hospice, we’ve made it our mission to support seriously ill patients through quality compassionate care, medical aid, and both social and emotional assistance. Our hospice services include:

  • Routine Home Care (for maintaining symptoms)
  • Continuous Home Care (for more severe and ongoing symptoms)
  • Respite Care (supports family members and caregivers of patients in private residences)
  • General Inpatient Care (provided at a skilled nursing facility)

Our hospice team consists of skilled medical professionals, including physicians, registered nurses, licensed vocational nurses, and certified hospice aids. We also offer social workers, chaplains, volunteer coordinators, volunteers, and bereavement coordinators for additional social, emotional, and support services.  Our team accepts Medicare, Medi-Cal. PPO, HMO and private payers.

At PRN Hospice, we advocate for terminally ill patients and include loved ones in the process. Whether you’re looking for general symptom relief or advance care planning, our hospice care team is available 24/7 to meet your needs. We’re always happy to speak with family members and address your concerns through a complimentary evaluation. Contact us today to learn more.