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Hospice vs. Palliative Care: What’s the difference?

As we age, our bodies change and so does the nature of the medical care required to meet our needs. It is important to understand the difference between the types of treatments available at each stage in our lives. Two types of medical care that are commonly confused are hospice care and palliative care.

While they are both necessary throughout the treatment process of a disease or serious illnesses, the two differ primarily in the timing of their implementations.

What is Palliative Care?

Palliative care can begin as soon as a patient is diagnosed, and can accompany curative treatment methods that work to eliminate a disease’s symptoms. In contrast, hospice care begins only when a patient’s treatment has unsuccessfully run its course, accompanied by a very short life expectancy and low survival rate.

In general, to palliate means “to make comfortable.” The goal of palliative care is to offer the patient an improved quality of life by targeting the negative side effects of a disease or serious illness, including any physical, emotional, social and spiritual problems.

As Medline Plus states, “a serious illness affects more than just the body. It touches all areas of life, including the family.”

In these situations, communication is key. Be vocal about exactly what is bothering you the most and what you feel is the most important to your process of treatment and recovery. Unlike hospice care, palliative care can be given any time, from the initial diagnosis to right before death. As a result, palliative care measures can be taken within hospitals, outpatient clinics, long-term care facilities, hospices or homes.

What is Hospice Care?

In the event that the disease or illness has taken a turn for the worst, patients are able to refuse the use of any further life-prolonging treatments by entering hospice care. Hospice care offers patients an opportunity to experience the comfort needed to deal with the emotional stress of dying, without the demanding side effects of treatment.

Hospice care is geared towards those with a life expectancy measured in months rather than years. It is no surprise then, that most hospice care patients choose to spend their final moments at home or in a living facility outside of the hospital receiving care. Healthcare organizations and hospitals can offer hospice care within specialized residences, nursing home facilities and even within hospitals themselves.

Getting Care Covered By Your Insurance Company

In general, both palliative care and hospice care are likely to be covered by your health insurance. Some palliative care treatments and medications may not be covered by Medicare/Medicaid, but hospice care is entirely covered as long as you qualify.

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Understanding the types of medical care available to you or your loved ones can lessen the level of stress and anxiety that usually accompanies major treatment decisions. At A Place at Home, we can help you navigate the complexity of the health care system to help you identify the best solution.