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Differences Between Palliative Care and Hospice Care

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Differences Between Palliative Care and Hospice Care

December 26, 2018

If your loved one is ill, one of your biggest priorities is to help them find comfort and relief from their symptoms. If they are undergoing treatment for a serious condition, that treatment may be fighting the disease and prolonging their life, but it’s not necessarily taking away painful or uncomfortable symptoms. In fact, many treatments can cause additional unpleasant side effects like nausea, loss of appetite, fatigue, muscle pain and weakness. So, what options are available for helping your loved one cope, feel more comfortable and maintain some quality of life? 

Elderly Hand in hospital bed being held by visitor
Both palliative care and hospice care can bring comfort and alleviate pain or reduce symptoms in people dealing with serious illnesses, but they differ in some important ways. To ensure your loved one gets the care they need, it’s important to understand the purpose and benefits of each type of care.

What Is Palliative Care?

Palliative care is not end-of-life care. Anyone undergoing active treatment for an illness or dealing with a serious condition that is not considered immediately life-threatening can receive it. Palliative care can help someone deal with physical symptoms of an illness, or side effects of treatment, including nausea, nerve and muscle pain, fatigue, shortness of breath, sleep problems, constipation and more. It may also include psychosocial care, which can help relieve depression, anxiety or feelings of isolation that often accompany illness.

Palliative care treatment may include medication, physical and occupational therapy, nutritional guidance, and psychological or spiritual counseling. It is designed to help make serious or chronic conditions as manageable as possible in order to maintain the best possible quality of life. 

What Is the Difference Between Palliative Care and Hospice Care?

Palliative care and hospice care have many elements in common. Both can provide physical and psychological comfort, help reduce stress and offer complex symptom relief. But they differ in some key ways.

Palliative care:

  • Can be administered at any stage of a disease
  • Often accompanies curative treatment
  • Is typically offered in the hospital, though can sometimes be administered at home
  • Is self-paid or partially covered by insurance

Hospice care:

  • Is given as end-of-life care, typically when someone’s prognosis is six months or less
  • Does not accompany curative treatment
  • Can be administered wherever a patient calls home
  • Is paid for by Medicare, Medicaid or health insurance

If your loved one has been diagnosed with a terminal illness with a life expectancy of six months or less, and you’re looking for compassionate comfort care, hospice care is your best choice. Learn more about hospice care coordination at Elmcroft.

If your loved one is undergoing treatment for a serious illness, or dealing with symptoms of a chronic condition, talk to their physicians about opportunities for palliative care therapies, medication and lifestyle counseling.

What Are the Benefits of Palliative Care?

People undergoing treatment for serious illnesses or experiencing daily symptoms from a chronic condition may find it difficult to participate in the activities they once loved, socialize with others, get around, or even get the nutrition and sleep they need to heal. They may feel depressed, hopeless, anxious, isolated and like a burden to loved ones. 

Palliative care can help address the physical and psychological effects of illness and treatments and help people feel more comfortable, in control of their lives and motivated to get better.

Does Medicare Cover Hospice Care and Palliative Care?

Hospice care is paid 100 percent by Medicare, Medicaid and private insurance. It is the only Medicare benefit that includes medications, medical equipment, 24/7 access to care, nursing, social services, chaplain visits and grief support following a death. 

When it comes to palliative care, Medicare Part B and/or Part A might cover certain elements, like if your loved one’s doctor orders anti-nausea medications to help with symptoms caused by chemotherapy. Other palliative care services are often paid for by the patient or, in some cases, a charity. 

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