World Hospice and Palliative Care Day was observed on October 9 and National Hospice and Palliative Care Month is set for November, so we thought it an opportune time to cover these two important types of care.
Hospice and palliative
care are both similar; each provides compassionate comfort care and
pain relief for people with a serious illness. The main distinction
between the two is this:
Hospice is end of life
care for a terminally ill person, of any age, who is expected to live
no longer than six months. Palliative care is for a person, of any
age, who has a serious illness that may or may not be terminal.
What is Hospice and
Why is it important to
know the details of each? Because one day you or a loved one may
have a serious and/or terminal illness and might benefit from one or
both of these special types of care. By knowing what’s available,
you’ll have the opportunity to live the best life possible under
the circumstances, if ever the need should arise.
Hospice is for anyone at
the end stage of a terminal illness, when treatment is no longer
effective, or the side effects of the treatment outweigh the
benefits. There is no age requirement for admission into hospice
care and patients range from infants to the elderly. An individual
can be admitted into hospice when they have six months or less to
live and have been referred by at least one medical professional.
This type of care is much
like palliative care in that it also provides compassionate comfort
care and pain relief. A large part of hospice care is palliative
care. Staff from both specialties work together to address the
needs of the patient.
Palliative care, like
hospice care, is for those suffering from a serious illness. Cancer,
congestive heart failure, liver and kidney failure, neurological
diseases like ALS and Parkinson’s, and dementia are all examples of
When a person has a
serious illness, a team of healthcare professionals work to cure it,
or at the very least, to keep it at bay. Palliative care is an extra
layer of care and support on top of this. It can be offered at any
point in a patient’s illness—from initial diagnosis, to the end
stage, or in between. Palliative care staff are separate from the patient’s other doctors and made up of a team of specially trained
doctors, nurses, and other specialists.
Someone living with
cancer, for example, may not only suffer from the disease itself, but
also from the side effects of treatment. Eating issues, shortness of
breath, nausea, lack of appetite, trouble sleeping, pain, discomfort,
and fatigue are all examples of side effects palliative
Relief from pain and
discomfort is one part of palliative care, but the scope of support
is much broader. Living with a chronic illness not only causes
physical discomfort, but it also takes a toll emotionally, socially,
and spiritually. Palliative care looks at a patient’s overall
wellness—the physical, emotional, and spiritual—pinpointing and
minimizing any issues that may negatively affect one’s quality of
life, such as the anxiety and depression that often accompany common
worries such as feeling like a burden to family and caregivers, as
well as loss of independence.
Where Care Takes Place
Palliative care teams
usually work in a hospital, with care administered to a patient in
their own home or in a hospital setting. Hospice care is most often
given at home or a home-like setting, such as a care center, assisted
living, or veterans home.
Hospice care is fully
covered by either Medicare, Medicaid, VA—or a combination of. For
palliative care, private insurance, Medicaid, Medicare Part B, or the
VA may cover portions, but individuals may also have to pay some
costs on their own.
Support for Family
Both hospice and
palliative care support the family, friends, and caregivers of those
living with a serious or terminal illness. They provide emotional
and spiritual help, as well as advice. This can come in the form of
stress management, instruction on how to best care for an ailing
loved one, arranging chaplain visits, answering questions and
concerns, and coordinating community resources. Hospice also offers
grief support services for one year after the passing of a loved one.
These examples are just to give you an idea, as hospice and
palliative care offer much more in the way of support.
Information on Hospice and Palliative Care
We encourage you to learn more about these two important types of care and the local resources available in our community and beyond, all which are covered in our free downloadable Hospice Guide. This guide's focus is mostly on hospice care, but there are also some resources on palliative care too.