Hospice and Palliative Care

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If you are like many of us, you may be confused by the differences between hospice and palliative care. The purpose of this article is to provide information on both. Palliative care is a part of hospice care but can also be provided without hospice. Both provide comfort during an illness. Hospice care is for terminally ill patients when treatment is no longer curative during the last 6 months of life. Palliative care is used while the patient is continuing active treatment and through different phases of their life limiting condition. It is appropriate at any age and at any stage in a serious illness, and it can be provided along with curative treatment.

Hospice Care and Palliative Care treat the whole patient and the family, offering psychosocial and spiritual counseling. An interdisciplinary team determines a care plan to meet the patient’s individual needs for pain management and symptom control. The team typically consists of physicians, nurses, social workers, physical and speech therapists as may be required, and spiritual counselors as well as pharmacists and other health professionals according to the needs of the patient and family. Care provides pain relief, assistance with the emotional and psychosocial and spiritual aspects of dealing with the illness and dying, providing needed drugs, medical supplies, and equipment, offers a support system to help patients live as actively as possible and to help loved ones cope with stress and bereavement.

Care can be provided in the home, assisted living facilities, nursing home, outpatient clinics or other specialized clinics or hospitals. People often misinterpret suggestions to consider hospice. They think death is very near but that’s not always the case. People enrolled in Medicare can receive hospice care if their healthcare provider thinks they have less than 6 months to live should the disease take its usual course. Doctors have a hard time predicting how long an older, sick person will live. Health often declines slowly, and some people might need a lot of help with daily living for more than 6 months before they die. If someone under hospice care lives longer than 6 months the doctor may choose to recertify the patient is close to dying. Medicare may continue to pay for hospice services. It is also possible to leave hospice care for a while and then later return if the healthcare provider still believes that the patient has less than 6 months to live.