Palliative Care vs. Hospice Care

If you or a loved one is facing a severe illness, you may have heard health care providers mention palliative or Hospice care. What are the similarities between the two treatment options? What are the differences? Read on to discover which is appropriate for you or your loved one.

palliative care vs hospice care

Palliative care

To understand what palliative care is, it’s important to understand the definition of the word. Palliative means “relieving pain without dealing with the cause of the condition.”

Please understand that if you are on palliative care that does not mean you will have stopped the other treatments to help with the disease itself. You can receive palliative care in addition to the treatments for the disease. In fact, sometimes you will need palliative care to help relieve the pain from the treatments themselves.

Palliative care is used when you have a serious disease, but the condition is not considered to be life-threatening at the moment. Diseases such as cancer, AIDS, or kidney disease may cause you pain, and receiving palliative care will help treat this pain. Other diseases that are often treated with palliative care include heart failure, dementia, and Parkinson’s disease. Sometimes the treatment you are receiving to help fight the disease will cause pain or discomfort. Palliative care can be used to treat the pain that comes from these treatments. Common pains include nausea, nerve pain, or shortness of breath.

Palliative care treats the body and the mind. Doctors know that when you are fighting a serious disease, you may also suffer from depression, anxiety, insomnia, and fatigue. Palliative care workers offer counseling to help you work through this scary time of your life.

Palliative care teams also include a nutritionist, who helps you choose the right foods that will help you fight your disease. Nutritionists will also tell you which foods to avoid for whatever health conditions you are suffering from at the moment.

If you are on palliative care, doctors try to find the right combination of drugs to ensure that you are living the most active and fulfilled life as possible as you fight an illness. This treatment may last for a short time or may be required for the rest of the patient’s life.

The World Health Organization recommends a systematic approach when dealing with pain. Step one is to start with a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug. Examples of these medications include ibuprofen and acetaminophen.

For the next step, it is recommended that the doctor prescribe a weak opioid medicine. An example of this would be hydrocodone.

Step three drugs include strong opioids like morphine and fentanyl.

Helper drugs are also sometimes prescribed. These include steroids, antidepressants, anticonvulsants, local anesthetics, muscle relaxants, and bisphosphonates.

Your physician will determine the way the drugs are administered and the amount of drug that is appropriate for your situation. Conventional methods that medications are administered during palliative care include oral medicines, adhesive patches, drug injections, drug IVs, medicine pumps, and spinal injections. Of course, the administration of the drug is determined by where the patient receives the treatment.

The word “opioid” may ring alarm bells since there has been such a lot of discussion regarding their addictive properties. Of course, if you have a history of alcohol or drug addiction, you should tell your doctor you are concerned about being prescribed a controlled substance.

In most cases of this nature, studies show that most of the time when the drugs are prescribed for a serious illness, users rarely become addicted to them. Your treatment is always your choice though.

Pain experts all agree that the best method to be as pain-free as possible is to start the medication before the pain becomes intolerable. This is often described as getting ahead of the pain.

Palliative drug treatments do have side effects. Some common side effects include drowsiness, nausea, and constipation. It is up to you to determine if the risks and side effects of these drugs override the pain you are experiencing. Everyone feels pain differently. Do not feel weak if you tend to feel pain more than others.

Hospice care

Hospice care is end-of-life care. Medicare has determined that a patient can receive Hospice care after receiving the prognosis of having six months to live or less. If you or your loved one enters Hospice care that does not mean that you have given up your fight, but if you agree to Hospice care you agree to receive only relief of your symptoms. You will no longer receive treatments to fight your illness.

While there are Hospice care facilities throughout the country, a patient can choose to receive Hospice services from their own homes, from nursing facilities, or from hospitals. A patient continues to receive Hospice care as long as he or she meets the criteria of having an illness with a life expectancy of months, not years.

Hospice care includes palliative care. Hospice workers strive to keep their patients as comfortable as possible as they fight brutal diseases. While Hospice care provides palliative care, the same may not be said in reverse.

Hospice offers more than just pain medication. Social workers, counselors, and clergy are also a part of the support staff. They provide emotional and spiritual support to the dying and their family members.

Hospice workers monitor the health of the patient and report back to the doctor when any changes occur. They often act as an intermediary between the patient and the doctor. They can treat wounds, start IVs, and insert catheters.

Hospice also offers nursing assistants. They can change the bed sheets, bathe the patient, adjust the patient within the bed, and do other physical tasks to make sure the patient is clean and comfortable.

What are the differences between palliative care and hospice?

Generally speaking, hospice provides care for the terminally ill when he or she has six months of life or less, and the patient has ceased receiving treatment for the disease. Palliative care is used along with curative measures.

Hospice care is available at a Hospice facility, hospital, nursing home, or in the patient’s home. Palliative care is offered at a hospital or care facility.

What are the similarities between Hospice and palliative care?

Both Hospice and palliative care are used for terminal illnesses. They also focus on improving quality and comfort of life. A person who is receiving palliative care can also receive Hospice care if his or her condition worsens.

Medicare, Medicaid, and private insurance may pay for both Hospice and palliative care.

Hospice workers are specially trained to help one transition to death as painlessly and with as much dignity as possible. Those who have been through the process with a loved one often testify how thankful they were for the professionals to helped their loved one during their most significant time of need.

One only has to look at another dictionary definition of the word hospice to get a clearer view of what kind of services they provide. The archaic meaning of hospice is “a lodging for travelers, especially one run by a religious order.” What a lovely image this is! Hospice workers provide shelter and comfort for those who are traveling on to the great beyond.