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December 09, 2021

Hospice Care vs Palliative Care: What’s the Difference

Hospice Care vs Palliative Care

Hospice care and palliative care are services that bring comfort and relief to patients suffering from serious illnesses. They are about treating the pain that accompanies the illness. They believe in honoring the wishes of the patient to preserve their human dignity. But the prognosis and goals of care for these two services tend to be different.

Hospice care treats terminally ill patients who have 6 months or less to live, while palliative care treats patients with an ongoing serious illness aiming to improve their quality of life. A patient is eligible for hospice or palliative care based on a physician’s assessment and referral.

Differences between hospice care and palliative care

Hospice care:

  • Patient is diagnosed with a fatal incurable illness giving them 6 months or less to live.
  • Medication is administered to ease the pain so that the patient can die with dignity.
  • Hospice care also helps to prepare the families for their loved one’s death.
  • Patients are usually treated in their homes or in a skilled nursing facility where professional caregivers and family members can look after them.
  • Hospice care involves the doctor, nurse, family members, clergy, counselor, and social worker. Together they help the patient with the grief of dying and the emotions that come with it.
  • Palliative care is a part of hospice by treating patients in addition to what their hospice care plan is.

Palliative care:

  • Patient is diagnosed with a serious illness that can be life-threatening such as cancer, kidney disease, Parkinson’s disease, and dementia, but will continue to pursue aggressive measures to prolong their life.
  • Medication is administered to ease the pain as well as help to deal with any other problems the patient may have.
  • Palliative care does not replace other treatments but is in addition to assisting with treatment.
  • Patients live as active a life as they possibly can.

In most cases, the choice between hospice and palliative care is dependent on the severity of a patient’s illness. Both services can help a patient and their family cope with the many aspects of the illness. This includes managing pain, dealing with family conflict, and resolving spiritual and cultural issues.

Pain medication can range from over-the-counter drugs such as ibuprofen to stronger controlled relief medicine such as oxycodone or morphine. Accepting the decision between hospice care and palliative care can be difficult, but the doctor and care staff will help to guide families through the process. Together, they can formulate a treatment plan that is a suitable option for the patient.    

The goals of hospice care and palliative care

  • Increases overall comfort by providing medication to help ease pain and other symptoms.
  • Provides emotional support to the patient and the family.
  • Patient and the family have access to chaplains, social workers, and other professionals who help to coordinate care.
  • Patient care can happen in their home, a family member’s home, or a long-term care facility.
  • Improves the patient’s quality of life.
  • To help to make important decisions about a patient’s medical treatment.

How to choose: Hospice care or palliative care?

Deciding between hospice and palliative care is not easy. Researchers show that both might be more effective if started early. A patient can receive palliative care for many years before entering hospice care, or they can recover from the illness altogether.

Yet statistics show that people tend to wait too long before accessing hospice care. So, communicating with the doctor or healthcare provider when dealing with any medical decision is key to clarifying a patient’s options.

If you have a loved one who is struggling with a serious illness and you feel lost, contact Home Instead today. We are an in-home care service provider working to enhance the lives of aging adults and their families.

We are well equipped to handle an array of situations such as stroke, Alzheimer’s, dementia, and diabetes. If you would like to learn more about how Home Instead can help you and your loved one, visit our website. We give senior care a new meaning because care begins at home.