Understanding the Differences Between Palliative Care and Hospice

Understanding the Differences Between Palliative Care and Hospice

The terms “hospice care” and “palliative care” are often used interchangeably, which can cause some confusion for those who haven’t experienced these types of care before. While the terms at first may appear to describe the same goals, they are actually complementary services that have two distinct benefits for patients.

“Both hospice and palliative care are forms of compassionate care to individuals with serious illnesses,” says Heather Battey, Executive Director at amavida, a retirement community in Fort Myers, Florida. “However, hospice care is exclusively provided at the end of someone’s life, while palliative care can happen at any point of diagnosis or treatment. Hospice care usually includes palliative care, but palliative care is not always accompanied by hospice care.”

What is palliative care?

Also known as “comfort care,” palliative care is all about providing a higher quality of life to an individual with a debilitating disease. Palliative care can be given whether the disease is terminal or not, whether treatment is being given and no matter how long the patient is expected to live. The focus of this form of care is to give relief – whatever that may mean for the patient. This can be everything from treating depression, dealing with nausea and pain, or even providing spiritual guidance. Palliative care can be short-term or long-term, and there’s no time frame for when it can be started (or must be stopped). In fact, the point of palliative care is to provide a patient with a longer, happier and healthier life.

What is hospice care?

Hospice care is also known as “end of life care,” and is provided when a terminally ill patient has reached the point where treatment is no longer curative. Unlike palliative care, hospice care is called for when a doctor (or doctors) certify that a patient is within six months of the end of their life. There is no goal of curing the disease or extending the patient’s life – the point of hospice care is to manage the symptoms of the disease and keep the patient comfortable until the end.

Who provides palliative care?

Palliative care can be provided by any healthcare professional. Doctors, nurses, physician assistants, social workers, dieticians, chaplains, massage therapists and psychologists are just some of the professionals who can provide or specialize in this form of care. Palliative care is typically provided by a care team who works in conjunction with doctors to provide a better quality of life and support.

Who provides hospice care?

Hospice care can be provided by programs based in a healthcare system or by independent hospice houses. It’s a common misconception that “hospice” is a place you go (although there are hospice care facilities across the United States). In fact, many individuals choose to receive hospice care in the comfort of their own home. Just as with palliative care, the hospice care team works in collaboration with your doctors – although medical treatment has stopped at this point, so balancing treatments is less critical.

What does palliative care treat?

Illness affects a person’s entire life – not just their physical self. That’s why palliative care is described as a multidisciplinary form of care that can address every aspect of an individual’s illness. Palliative care can provide relief for:

  • Physical problems such as trouble sleeping, pain, loss of appetite and other side effects or symptoms.
  • Coping, social and emotional problems such as stress, depression, hopelessness and other mental health issues.
  • Practical issues such as understanding treatment choices, providing assistance with insurance or connecting you and your family to available services.
  • Spiritual issues such as questioning one’s faith or trying to understand why this has happened to them.

What does hospice care treat?

Hospice care, like palliative care, treats the entire person – mind, body and soul. Oftentimes hospice care includes practical, day-to-day assistance like cleaning, tidying up and cooking. Hospice care also provides support for family members, both during the terminal stage and after the patient has passed away.

What treatments do palliative care include?

Palliative care can include a wide variety of treatments, including:

  • Medical, such as medication management, therapies such as physical and occupational, nutritional and dietary guidance and referrals to different health providers.
  • Emotional, such as connecting you with support groups and facilitating family meetings.
  • Practical referrals for financial counseling and connecting with area resources such as housing or transportation.

What treatments does hospice care include?

Hospice care generally includes more hands-on, around-the-clock care than palliative care. Services can include:

  • Nursing services, with a case manager who visits several times a week and an on-call nurse available 24-hours a day.
  • Social services, with a social worker who can assist with social and emotional needs.
  • Counseling services for spiritual support and bereavement counseling.
  • Medical equipment to provide a caring and comfortable environment for the patient, such as a hospital bed, oxygen, a wheelchair and more.
  • Respite care for caregivers, providing short-term assistance to enable them to care for themselves.

For more information about hospice care and palliative care, contact us today at 877.969.0712.