It’s About Living
Often, people find the terms “hospice care” and “palliative care” scary.
By their very definitions, however, they are anything but. Both give patients control of their treatment and their lives.
Both focus on the needs of the whole patient, not the just the illness. Both have the goal of decreasing symptoms and increasing quality of life. And both work to help patients and their families live as fully as possible with and despite their illness.
Palliative care is for patients managing a serious illness. With palliative care, curative treatments continue but with a more holistic approach that takes you and your whole life into account.
With palliative care, you get a team of specially trained professionals to help you navigate your life, as well as your illness, moving forward. A palliative care team typically consists of some combination of healthcare providers (a physician, nurse practitioner and nurses), a medical social worker, and perhaps a pharmacist, a nutritionist, a spiritual counselor and/or volunteers. Working closely with you and your family, the team helps you:
- Have a conversation with your family and document your wishes for future health care
- Develop treatment goals and a life-manage-ment plan that reflect your values, your life goals, your lifestyle and your desires
- Ensure proper pain management and symptom relief is in place
- See that financial issues are addressed and help is found if needed
- Ensure your family receives information, support, respite and other needed resources.
With palliative care, you, the patient, are always in control. You can ask your doctor to refer you to palliative care at any time during your illness. And you can stop palliative care services at any time you wish or when you recover.
Hospice care is for patients with any life-limiting condition and a prognosis of six months or less to live. As with palliative care, hospice care is provided by an interdisciplinary team of health-care and human services professionals. Your hospice team works closely with you and your family to achieve many of the same goals as with palliative care. However, the difference is that hospice patients are no longer seeking curative treatments; they are seeking comfort and quality of life.
Other facts you should know about hospice care are:
- You can receive hospice services at your home, nursing home, at the hospital or at a hospice house. (If you are in a hospital or nursing facility, hospice care can often make it possible for you to move home if you wish.)
- You can continue to see your regular physician and use prescribed medications.
- You can go out, have visitors in, do whatever you feel up to doing.
- You can stop hospice care and resume curative treatment at any time.
- Hospice care does nothing to hasten death. In fact, often people on hospice live longer than people who are being actively treated for the same disease.
A physician must refer you for palliative or hospice care. Medicare, Medicaid and private insurance offer benefits for both types of care. (Your care team can help you look into the specifics of your policy.)
Study after study has shown that with hospice and palliative care, patients live and feel better.