While both palliative and hospice care provide comfort care for those suffering from advanced illnesses, they differ in the overall outcome. The purpose of hospice care is to manage the symptoms of a patient’s disease but has no curative intent. Palliative care, on the other hand, is comfort care that may or may not work alongside any curative treatment.
What is palliative care?
The Center to Advance Palliative Care provides a great answer to this question in their “About Palliative Care” article. Their experts explain that “palliative care is specialized medical care for people living with a serious illness.” Along with improving the quality of life for the patient and their family, palliative care strives to provide relief for the symptoms associated with the illness.
The article also shares that the patient’s care team usually consists of “specially-trained doctors, nurses and other specialists who [collaborate] provide an extra layer of support.” The patient’s holistic needs are what inform the palliative care, not their prognosis. Care can be given at any age and stage of an illness, and alongside any curative treatment.
What is hospice care?
When a disease reaches a point where all treatment is ineffective, hospice care becomes an option. It is a special form of care that is focused on creating a better quality of life for the individual who is suffering from an advanced illness, such as a patient with end-stage cancer. The goal is to provide care that allows the patient to live out their last days in comfort.
The American Cancer Society puts it best on their website: hospice “affirms life, but does not try to hasten or postpone death.” Because there is no possibility of a cure for the disease, hospice care strictly manages the person’s physical wellbeing and the side effects of their disease. A dedicated team of physicians works together to ensure that the symptoms are being managed to the best of their ability. The hope is to provide dignified, peaceful, meaningful quality time for the patient to be with their loved ones prior to passing on. Hospice care heavily involves patients and the patient’s family in every decision.
Hospice and palliative care both deliver pain and symptom relief and provide a patient with a team of doctors. However, there are some more important factors that cause them to differ, and they include:
- Eligibility. Palliative care can be recommended by the patient’s doctor at any point during their illness, whether it is terminal or not. To be eligible for hospice care, however, two physicians have to declare that the patient has less than six months to live.
- Cost. Hospice care has full coverage through Medicare, Medicaid, and private insurance. It is actually the only Medicare benefit that includes pharmaceuticals, medical equipment, 24/7 access to care, nursing, social services, chaplain visits, grief support, and any other services found to be necessary. Palliative care, on the other hand, can vary in both its cost and coverage.
- Location. Hospice focuses on the comfort of the patient in their last days. Because of this, it is usually conducted at their home or a home-like facility, whereas palliative care teams usually work in a hospital setting.
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