Hospice helps people in the final stages of a terminal illness to be comfortable and free from pain. Isn’t palliative care the same thing? No, it isn’t. Here’s why.
Palliative Care vs Hospice
HOW THEY DIFFER
Hospice care is for patients who are expected to die within a relatively short time frame, and are no longer being treated for a cure. The average hospice patient typically spends only a few days receiving hospice services (although hospice professionals believe that patients and their families would probably benefit from receiving these services for a longer time). The primary qualification for hospice is that the patient is suffering from a life-limiting illness (cancer, dementia, heart failure, etc.).
Payment: Hospice is covered by Medicare provided that a physician judges that the patient has less than six months to live.
Palliative care, can help people at every stage of a serious or chronic illness, regardless of the patient’s life expectancy, while the patient’s underlying illness is also being treated for a cure. Unlike hospice, many patients graduate out of palliative care as their health and well-being improve. In fact, 40% of palliative care patients can expect to be cured.
Palliative care became an approved medical specialty as recently as 2007, and is growing rapidly. More than 70% of hospitals now offer palliative care services, including 90% of those with more than 300 beds. Patients who receive palliative care spend less time in the hospital than they otherwise would. They report greater satisfaction with their medical care, and, over-all, a better sense of well-being. Sometimes it can even make the difference between a patient being willing to try or continue a potentially difficult curative treatment that he or she might otherwise reject.
One of the most valuable things a palliative care professional can do is help the patient (and his or her family) plan for the future by establishing “goals of care” based on the patient’s own values and desires about treatment and quality of life. Palliative care is appropriate for any serious and/or chronic illness.
Payment: Most insurance plans, including Medicare and Medicaid, cover all or part of palliative care which, in a hospital, is provided by a palliative consultation team when requested by the attending physician.
HOW THEY ARE SIMILAR
Both hospice and palliative care seek to improve a patient’s quality of life by providing relief from the pain, discomfort, anxiety, and depression that can accompany any serious illness. Both draw from a variety of coordinating disciplines—pain management, social work, psychiatry, family therapy—to achieve these goals.
This article has been reviewed by Patricia Bloom MD and Harrison Bloom MD, authors of the recently published book: Get Up and Move Your A**! A Light-hearted But Serious Guide to Successful Aging. For more information, go to www.doctorsbloom.com.
For more information:
• aplaceformom.com - Palliative care: Broad overview
• medicinenet.com - Details about hospice care
• reportcard.capc.org - Palliative care questions & answers
• caregiverslibrary.org - Detailed info about hospice and palliative care
• nytimes.com - Most current info about status of hospice vs palliative care
• caringinfo.org - Explains the role of “goals of care” in palliative care.