What is Palliative Care?
Palliative care is medical care for patients living with a serious illness. The focus of palliative care is to relieve the symptoms and the stress of the illness. The goal is to improve quality-of-life for both the patient and the family. These patients may also receive curative treatment.
Palliative care is for anyone living with a serious illness – e.g. heart failure, chronic disease, cancer, dementia, Parkinson’s, etc. Palliative care is helpful at any stage of an illness and is best provided at the point of initial diagnosis.
Palliative care helps patients understand their choices for treatment. It can be provided with curative treatment and does not depend on the prognosis. It may be covered by Medicare, Medicaid, and private insurance. Veterans may be eligible through the Department of Veterans Affairs. Confirm with your provider to confirm if palliative care is provided for your specific situation
What is Hospice Care?
If at some point the doctor, patient, and family agree that it may not be possible to cure serious illness or a decision is made to forego certain treatments, hospice care is worthy of consideration. A patient entering hospice care understands that their illness is not responding to medical attempts to cure or slow down the disease.
Hospice care has become an option for many families at the end of life. Hospice care can be provided in the home, a nursing home, an assisted living facility, or a hospital. As with palliative care, hospice focuses on relieving the symptoms and the stress of the illness. They also share the goal of improving the quality-of-life for the patient and family. However, there is no longer a plan for curative treatment. Hospice care is available for patients with a terminal illness. The doctor and patient have determined that he/she has less than six months to live.
Hospice is an approach to care and is not related to where the patient is located. It can be provided at home or in a facility – nursing home, hospital, or hospice center.
A team with special skills – nurses, doctors, spiritual advisors, social workers, aides, and volunteers make up the hospice care team. All work with the patient, family, and caregivers to provide the medical, emotional and spiritual support needed.
Members of the hospice care team visit regularly. Support is available by phone at any time. Medicare and other insurance companies may cover the costs of hospice care. Check with your provider to confirm.
Hospice care is not a permanent decision. The patient may choose to leave hospice care at any time but may re-enrol when the time is right.
Many patients face death in hospital or nursing homes. Most would prefer the familiarity of their home. Hospice care makes this possible.