Date: August 8, 2019

Author: Jayne Stewart

When you or a loved one receive a diagnosis of a serious or life-threatening illness, you may find yourself lost in the maze of information you receive from your medical team. The terms Palliative Care and Hospice Care will probably be mentioned as you look at treatment options. Many people are confused by the similarities and differences between the two. So, what is the difference between palliative care and hospice care?

What do hospice and palliative care have in common?

Palliative care and hospice care are both designed to provide the highest quality of life possible for the person receiving the services. Personal comfort, family involvement, social activities, patient centered choice making, emotional support, and pain management are the focus in both palliative and hospice care.

Is palliative care and hospice care the same thing?

There are many similarities between hospice and palliative care, but there are also significant differences. When you hear the words palliative care, you might think of it as a plan without optimism for recovery.

Palliative care is a plan of treatment that is recommended at any stage of a serious disease or illness. A team of professionals work together to determine the best plan and quality of care for the patient, while working toward a curative outcome or the best treatment options for a long term or chronic illness.

Hospice care is suggested when the person has a life-limiting illness. One of the criteria for eligibility for hospice is a life expectancy of six months or less. The emphasis of hospice is to assist both the patient and the family with end of life decision making, emotional concerns, and spiritual support. Hospice care also focuses on managing the patient’s pain so he can make the most of each day and do the things he might not be able to do without pain management support.

How long does the average hospice patient live?

Sometimes there is a reluctance by the patient or family members to admit that hospice care is indicated. Although the six-month life expectancy is the timeline to meet eligibility requirements for hospice, many people delay accessing the service until their illness or disease has progressed to the latter stages. The time that people spend in hospice care is determined by the stage of the illness when hospice care is initiated. Some people are only in hospice care for two or three days. For others, it may be weeks or even months. There have been cases of patients living beyond the six-month life expectancy. In those cases, the patient is either discharged from hospice services if their condition unexpectedly improves, or the doctor can write an order for continued hospice care.

What does quality of life mean in palliative care?

Quality of life means different things to different people. Palliative care offers the opportunity to live the best life possible while battling a serious or chronic illness. No one wants to be in pain. Those who choose to receive palliative care as part of their treatment plan can work with their medical team to alleviate or reduce their pain through a combination of medications and healthy lifestyle changes. Palliative care can be the difference between spending your time in the hospital, or living your life as you wish, in the comfort of your home. Doctors can determine when someone should be offered palliative care.

Supporting a person who needs palliative care is an important component in the treatment plan. There are physical signs of pain in palliative care that both the patient and the supporting team should be aware of. Facial expressions, restlessness, inability to find a comfortable resting position when in bed, moaning, crying, or calling out while awake or asleep, and body tension are signs to be aware of when caring for someone receiving palliative care.

Does palliative care mean end of life care?

No, palliative care does not mean end of life care in many cases. People battling cancer, heart disease, kidney disease and other life-threatening illnesses can receive palliative care from the time of diagnosis to recovery if that is the case. If treatments and medical interventions are not successful, the patient can be transferred into hospice services when the time comes for end of life care.

Just remember, palliative care and hospice care are out there and can bring peace of mind, comfort and pain relief to those who need support. Whether you are battling a serious illness or whether your journey here is coming to an end, you don’t have to face these difficult times alone.

Date: August 8, 2019

Author: Jayne Stewart

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