Palliative Care vs Hospice Care: Which is Right for Your Family?

If you, a family member, or a loved one have a potentially life threatening illness, it’s likely that you’ve been speaking with your doctors and other medical professionals about pain management. You might have heard about “palliative care” or “hospice care” as options to consider. 

While palliative care and hospice care have a lot of similarities, there are some key differences to consider when thinking about which option is right for you or your loved ones. In this post, we’ll talk about what palliative and hospice care are and who can benefit from each.

 

What is Palliative Care?

Palliative care refers to the specialized medical care given to people with severe illnesses. Palliative care focuses on providing patients relief from the pain and stress they may be experiencing coming from symptoms of their illness. The main goal of palliative care is to improve the comfort and quality of life of those suffering a severe illness and of their family. It works to relieve symptoms caused by their illness such as pain, depression, shortness of breath, fatigue, constipation, nausea, loss of appetite, difficulty sleeping, and anxiety. 

A palliative care team is composed of interdisciplinary professionals including physicians, nurses, social workers, and chaplains and will work with you to help manage these symptoms and improve your overall comfort. Additionally, the palliative care team can also assist in providing emotional, spiritual, and financial support. They can also help coordinate and make key important treatment decisions including curative treatments.

Who can Benefit from Palliative Care?

The main differentiating factor between palliative and hospice care is when you are able to receive care. You can receive palliative care as soon as you receive your diagnosis. Palliative care is available to all patients with severe or life threatening illnesses regardless of their age prognosis, disease stage, or treatment choice.

Ideally, palliative care is provided early to help prolong life and provide curative treatments but it can be sought at any point after diagnosis.

When discussing the potential of palliative care, be sure to discuss with your doctor the following:

  • Identify and assess potential physical, psychological, social, and spiritual stressors.
  • Ask questions and understand your diagnosis as well as discuss potential treatment.
  • Discuss potential treatments you do not want or any end of life preparations including medical interventions. 

What is Hospice Care?

Similar to palliative care, hospice care centers around providing care, pain management, and quality of life improvements to patients diagnosed with severe illnesses. The distinction between hospice care and palliative care, however, is that patients who seek hospice care have typically exhausted all treatment options and are nearing the end of their life. The goal of hospice is not to provide curative treatments but instead to help relieve the patient of painful symptoms or stresses to improve their quality of life. Hospice care also assists loved ones by providing support and counseling.

It is important to note that hospice care is received by patients with a terminal illness, palliative care is often a part of hospice care. The comfort and symptom management of a patient in hospice care is managed by physicians, nurses, home health aides, counselors, and social workers.

Who can Benefit from Hospice Care?

Typically, a patient can receive hospice care if they have six months or less to live. Many patients who receive hospice care usually have an advanced form of cancer but others receive this type of care if they have heart disease, dementia, kidney failure or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

Data shows that many families don’t start hospice care soon enough, as it feels too much like “giving up.” It’s important to note that enrolling in hospice care early or as soon as possible helps patients manage their pain and allows for them to have a better quality of life. It’s also important to remember that patients may choose to leave hospice care to pursue aggressive treatment if that option opens up to them.

Deciding on the Right Type of Care

If you’re deciding between palliative care and hospice care, it’s also important to remember that financing each takes some consideration. Whether or not palliative care or hospice care is covered by your insurance often depends on the type of coverage you have, the illness in question, and, in the case of palliative care, any treatments you will require. 

Hospice care is covered by Medicare provided that your doctor can provide you with an evaluation citing that you have six months or less to live. Palliative care is sometimes covered by Medicare or private insurance. Make sure to talk with your insurance company about any coverage questions you may have regarding palliative or hospice care.

Paying for Palliative or Hospice Care

Unfortunately, patients and their families face high medical bills either from treatments, symptom management, or end of life care such as hospice care. Coping with mounting stress from financing palliative or hospice care can take a toll on you and your loved ones.

If you find yourself unable to keep up with your medical bills or paying for your life insurance premiums, it may be time to start exploring life settlements or viatical settlements as an option. The sum of money you receive from a life or viatical settlement can be used to pay for any medical treatment not covered by insurance or finance any end of life care such as hospice.

If you or your loved one needs assistance on life or viatical settlements to finance end of life care, Harbor Life Settlements can help. Get in touch with one of our professionals today!

 


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