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Alexander Everest Explains the Difference Between Palliative Care and Hospice Care

When patients have serious and debilitating health problems, they and their families may want to know whether palliative care or hospice care is right for them. Palliative care and hospice care are similar in some respects, but they have many differences.

Dr. Alexander Everest, a healthcare executive, explains the difference between palliative care and hospice care, outlining when each form of care can be the most helpful.

Palliative Care

Palliative care is a specialized form of medical treatment that helps patients live with a serious illness. With palliative care, a patient may be receiving medical treatment that could cure their illness. Palliative care focuses on quality of life, intending to improve conditions for the patient and their family.

Any Conditions

Some of the conditions that patients who should consider accessing palliative care may have included heart failure, Parkinson’s disease, cancer, dementia, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or COPD. Palliative care works well during any stage of an illness, but it should be started soon after the diagnosis.

Offers Comfort 

Providing comfort
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Palliative care helps with the comfort factor in an illness, and it also helps patients understand what their choices for medical treatment may be. Palliative care offers many helpful aspects for any elderly patient who may be experiencing disability and discomfort.

Work Together With Patient and Family

Palliative care teams work together with the patient, family, and each other, providing support in a wide variety of arenas. Palliative care provides social, medical, practical, and emotional support. The various professionals involved in palliative care involve doctors, nurses, nutritionists, social workers, chaplains, etc.

Many Medical Places Offer Palliative Care

Hospitals, outpatient clinics, and nursing homes can offer palliative care. Palliative care can also be delivered in the home. It is frequently covered by Medicaid, Medicare, and private insurance policies. It is best to check your insurance coverage before engaging in palliative care.

Basics of Palliative Care

Palliative care can increase patient comfort and bring a holistic view of medical care to the patient’s life. The care can be provided at the same time as curative treatments. Palliative care can support a person’s recovery from a serious illness, providing a way to soothe the troublesome symptoms that could come along with chemotherapy or other forms of medical treatment.

Hospice Care

Hospice care is used at the end of life. It focuses on quality of life and comfort for a person suffering from a serious, terminal illness. Sometimes, serious illnesses cannot be cured. In other cases, patients may choose to stop certain treatments if they feel that they are doing more harm than good to their overall comfort and quality of life.

Focus On End of Life Preparations

Hospice care focuses on the last six months of life. Many patients and doctors wait too long to begin hospice care, and patients miss out on the overall comfort and care benefits they could be experiencing.

It is understandable to wait an extended period of time to start hospice because patients and families may feel that they are “giving up.” It is important to remember that hospice care can be changed back to curative palliative care at any time.

Some Palliative Care Is Involved

Hospice care includes most aspects of palliative care, except curative treatment. Like palliative care, it treats side effects and symptoms starting at an early stage if possible.

Hospice care, especially for cancer, involves looking at how the experience of the disease affects the whole person. Palliative care techniques are used to relieve stress, symptoms, and pain.

Patients and Family Are Given Care Options

Patients are given options about how they want their care managed. Caregivers remain in constant communication with the patient and their family to ensure their needs and wishes are being met.

Hospice bed
Photo by Bret Kavanaugh on Unsplash

As part of hospice care, palliative care techniques help with spiritual, social, emotional, physical, and mental issues that may arise. Many hospice care centers have faith-based programs that can be very comforting to patients undergoing life-limiting illnesses.

The Difference Between Palliative Care and Hospice Care

The primary difference between palliative care and hospice care lies in the expectation that the patient will recover. Palliative care is part of hospice care, but hospice care assumes that the patient is in their final six months of life.

The decision to place a loved one in hospice care can be extremely difficult. Having a realistic view of the loved one’s prognosis can be hard for family members to cope with. Many patients who reach this stage of life would prefer hospice care over curative care, but they may not know how to bring it up with their care team.

Making the Right Healthcare Decisions

Dr. Alexander Everest believes that doctors, patients, and family members should work together to arrive at workable treatment plans for people with serious illnesses. Choosing hospice care over palliative care is a difficult one, and many factors go into determining whether it is the right time. Patients are encouraged to be honest with their families and physicians to make sure that they are receiving the care they need and want. 

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