People who are dealing with chronic or terminal illnesses might learn that they need a more intensive level of support than just periodic doctor visits. Depending on the severity and other factors related to the condition, your medical team might recommend that you enter into hospice or palliative care.
While many people use the terms “palliative care” and “hospice” interchangeably, there are some notable differences between these two programs. If you’re facing an illness that might require you to enter one of these, you should understand the differences between these compassionate care programs.
What Is Palliative Care?
Palliative care is a program that helps improve the quality of life for a person with a serious illness or medical condition. It focuses on factors such as relief from symptoms, care coordination and decision-making.
Patients are eligible for palliative care as soon as they’re diagnosed with a qualifying condition. They can continue to receive treatments to prolong their life or cure the condition. This is all done through a team of medical professionals.
Individuals who enter into palliative care will likely receive the services through a local hospital or clinic. While some may receive care at home, this isn’t the typical care setting for palliative care.
What Is Hospice?
Hospice is a service that helps people who are near the end of their life. In order to qualify for hospice, a person’s doctor must note that the patient is expected to live less than six months.
When a person enrolls in hospice, they must stop all treatments that are meant to cure the condition or prolong the person’s life. This is often the factor that makes it difficult for patients to agree to hospice care because they may still hold out hope of a cure.
Hospice care is provided in a variety of settings. A person who’s in a hospital, nursing home or assisted living facility can receive hospice care in those settings. It’s also possible to move into a hospice facility or receive services at your home. One of the goals of hospice care is to keep the patient comfortable, so keeping them in a familiar setting is important.
What Services Do Hospice and Palliative Care Provide Beyond Medical Care?
Despite the differences between palliative care and hospice, there are some similarities between the programs. The care team for both programs works closely with patients and loved ones to keep the patient as pain-free as possible. They also discuss options and help patients make decisions about their care needs.
A hospice care team and a palliative care team also provide support for the emotional aspects of the situation. Everyone has their own way of handling these types of situations, so the team providing services will have to adjust to the unique needs of any situation.
Many hospice and palliative care programs also provide spiritual support during this time. This may help patients and their family members cope with the changes that are occurring.
Who Is Part of a Hospice Care Team or a Palliative Care Team?
The professionals who provide care for individuals in hospice and in palliative care are largely the same. One difference is that some nurses specialize in hospice and others specialize in palliative care.
People who are in these programs will usually be seen by their normal medical care team. This includes their primary care physician, as well as any specialists. As a person transitions through hospice, some of the specialists might take on a less central role while shifting the central care to the hospice team.
Both programs typically include medical social workers, chaplains and volunteers. Home health aides and personal assistants are also an important part of the care team.
In hospice care programs, bereavement coordinators are part of the care team as well. These professionals help loved ones in the period after the patient passes on. Programs like PRN Hospice offer this service for up to one year after the loss of a loved one.
What Should You Know When You’re Deciding Between Palliative Care and Hospice?
There are several things to consider when you’re trying to decide between palliative care and hospice. Your medical care team might be able to help you determine which option is right for your needs. Some people start out in palliative care and transition to hospice if their condition worsens.
Typically, palliative care and hospice are the most beneficial to patients who get started with them as soon as possible. This means you should enroll in a palliative care program as soon as your doctor diagnoses you with a condition that qualifies. If you find out down the road that you’re expected to live less than six months, you can move into a hospice program.
With both palliative care and hospice, you need to review your insurance coverage to determine what services are covered. There might be limits to how long you can receive certain services. A person in palliative care will need to review their coverage for each service as visits to medical professionals are usually billed as individual services.
Contact PRN Hospice Today to Find Out How We Can Help Improve Your Quality of Life
PRN Hospice has a team of professionals ready to help you through this trying time. You can give us a call at 818-946-8242 to discuss your needs and learn how our hospice team can work with you to make you as comfortable as possible.