The Difference Between Hospice and Palliative Care

Caribou

Caribou

October 01, 2020

Start the conversation early about your goals of care and whether palliative care and/or hospice might improve your quality of life.

Palliative care is often used interchangeably with hospice care and is misunderstood as a type of medical treatment that is only available for those enduring end of life care. However, unlike hospice services, palliative care can be offered during any point of your diagnosis and should even be considered at the beginning of your treatment plan.

What is Palliative Care?

The goal of palliative care is to focus on enhancing the quality of life for people of all ages living with chronic and/or serious illnesses through symptom relief.

Palliative medicine encompasses the whole self, caring for the physical, emotional, and spiritual needs of the ill patient and family members while primarily managing pain and any other symptoms through compassionate care. In order to address you and your family’s unique set of needs, the palliative care team includes a large variety of professionals such as palliative care physicians, nurses, social workers, and physical, occupational, and speech therapists.

Palliative care can be started at diagnosis, during curative treatment, or at end of life. Be sure to learn more about what palliative medicine can do for both you or your loved ones before finding a palliative care program

How to Get Started with Palliative Care

If you have been diagnosed with a terminal illness, making the decision to receive palliative care is a great choice to improve quality of life and offer symptom relief.

The first step in receiving palliative care is to express your interest with your primary doctor or treatment team. Often they can initiate palliative care services right away. If not, you may have to ask for a referral to a palliative care provider. 

It is important that, when choosing a palliative care program and palliative care team, you consider differences between providers that might make a particular one a better choice for you over others. Some important differences to consider include where you would prefer to be treated, how much the program costs, and the variety of treatments that they offer.

What is Hospice?

Many families delay discussions about end-of-life care because it is hard to think about death and losing someone they love.

The goal of hospice care is to prioritize comfort for those in the last phases of incurable disease so that they may live as fully and comfortably as possible. When navigating end of life care, it is important to understand what services a hospice can offer you and your family.

Similar to palliative care, the hospice care team is composed of a large variety of professionals that work together to treat the person and their symptoms, not just the disease. Some services that they offer include symptom management, spiritual care, counselling for both you and your family. Hospice care is most often provided at the hospice patient’s home. This might be their own house, a nursing home, assisted living facility or other setting. Some hospices offer inpatient services in hospitals, hospice facilities, skilled nursing facilities, or assisted living facilities.

Hospice care can begin once you receive a referral from your primary doctor indicating that you or a loved one has less than 6 months of life due to a serious illness. You might also consider hospice if you are experiencing frequent visits to the ER, a decline in ability to perform activities of daily life, or signs of deteriorating health.

Choosing a Hospice Provider

Making the decision to transition you or your loved one to hospice care can be an emotional process. It is often accompanied by confusion, with little understanding of available options or how hospice actually works. 

When choosing a hospice program, there are a number of things you should ask in order to gain a better understanding of their program. Some of these questions include:

  1. Who is on the hospice team? How often is the hospice team available?

  2. Is the hospice nationally accredited?

  3. How quickly is a plan of care developed for the patient?

You may also find it helpful to download this comprehensive list of more important questions to consider when choosing a hospice program and hospice team that is right for you and your family.. 

Palliative care is often used interchangeably with hospice care and is misunderstood as a type of medical treatment that is only available for those nearing the end of their life. However, unlike hospice services, palliative care can be offered during any point of your diagnosis and should even be considered at the beginning of your treatment plan.

What is Palliative Care?

Palliative care is a medical approach that focuses on enhancing the quality of life for people of all ages living with serious and chronic illnesses.

Palliative care encompasses the whole self, caring for the physical, emotional, and spiritual needs of both you and your family while primarily managing pain and any other symptoms. In order to address you and your family’ unique set of needs, the palliative care team includes a large variety of professionals such as palliative care physicians, nurses, social workers, and physical, occupational, and speech therapists. 

Be sure to learn more about what palliative care can do for both you or your loved ones before finding a palliative care program

How to Get Started with Palliative Care

If you have been diagnosed with a terminal illness, making the decision to receive palliative care is a great choice to improve quality of life and manage unpleasant symptoms. 

The first step in receiving palliative care is to express your interest with your primary doctor or treatment team. Often they can initiate palliative care services right away. If not, you may have to ask for a referral to a palliative care provider. 

It is important that, when choosing a palliative care program, you consider differences between providers that might make a particular one a better choice for you over others. Some important factors to consider include where you would prefer to be treated, how much the program costs, and the variety of treatments that they offer. 

What is Hospice?

Many families delay discussions about end-of-life care because it is hard to think about death and losing someone they love.

The goal of hospice care is to prioritize comfort for those in the last phases of incurable disease so that they may live as fully and comfortably as possible. When navigating end of life care, it is important to understand what services a hospice can offer you and your family.

Similar to palliative care, the hospice care team is composed of a large variety of professionals that work together to treat the person and their symptoms, not just the disease. Some services that they offer include symptom management, spiritual care, counselling for both you and your family. 

Hospice care can begin once you receive a referral from your primary doctor indicating that you or a loved one has less than 6 months to live. You might also consider hospice if you are experiencing frequent visits to the ER, a decline in ability to perform activities of daily life, or signs of deteriorating health. 

Choosing a Hospice Provider

Making the decision to transition you or your loved one to hospice care can be an emotional process. It is often accompanied by confusion, with little understanding of available options or how hospice actually works. 

When choosing a hospice program, there are a number of things you should ask in order to gain a better understanding of their program. Some of these questions include:

  1. Who is on the hospice care team? How often are they available?

  2. Is the hospice nationally accredited?

  3. How quickly is a plan of care developed for the patient?

You may also find it helpful to download this comprehensive list of more important questions to consider when choosing a hospice program that is right for you and your family. 

Paying for Palliative and Hospice Care

Understanding what is covered and what is not covered by your insurance plan is critical when deciding to receive hospice and palliative care. Luckily under Medicare, Medicaid, and private health insurance companies, paying for palliative and hospice care is made easy while you and your loved ones go through the difficult journey of end of life care. 

Medicare Hospice Benefit Program

The Medicare Hospice Benefit Program is a federally created program that helps those living with a terminal illness receive hospice care. Upon qualifying for this program, covered costs include doctor services and nursing care, drugs for symptom control and pain relief, grief support, hospice aide, and much more. 

What is Not Covered by the Medicare Hospice Benefit Program?

While the Medicare Hospice Benefit Program covers most costs associated with hospice care, it is important to know which costs you may be responsible for. Some of these costs include treatment or medication intended to cure your illness or room and board costs if you decide to receive hospice care at home. 

Medicaid and Private Insurance Hospice Coverage

Both Medicaid and private insurance plans cover similar services as Medicare. However Medicaid coverage varies state to state as do private insurance plans, therefore it is best that you contact your state's Medicaid agency or your insurance company to fully understand what services are covered.