Hospice and palliative care seem similar at first glance, but the two types of care are actually quite different. Both types of care focus on relieving pain and other symptoms, for example, and both are often used by people with serious conditions. Because they are so similar, many people wonder, “what is the difference between palliative care and hospice?”
What is Hospice Care?
Hospice care focuses on the patient’s quality of life when a cure is no longer possible, or when the side effects of treatment outweighs its benefits. People who chose not to pursue treatment may also benefit from hospice care.
Patients who receive hospice services have a life expectancy of six months or less if the terminal illness runs its typical course. The goal of hospice care workers is to provide comfort care to the patient by managing pain and to offer emotional and spiritual support to the patient and their family or caregivers.
While people think that hospice care is only for the elderly or for those with cancer, this type of care is also appropriate for patients of any age with any life-limiting illness. Hospice care may be offered anywhere the patient calls home, including private residences, assisted living communities, or nursing homes.
Hospice Care Team Members
Hospice care involves an interdisciplinary team, which may include:
- A hospice physician or medical director who oversees care
- Nurses who provide nursing care and medication management
- Certified Nursing Assistants to help with personal hygiene
- Social workers to ensure the patient receives the services they need
- Chaplains, pastors or other spiritual support
- Bereavement counselors or coordinators
Goals of Hospice Care
The hospice team focuses on:
- Management of pain and other symptoms
- Providing emotional support
- Pain and symptom management
- Managing medication, medical supplies, and equipment
- Educating caregivers on how to care for the patient
- Grief support
What is Palliative Care?
Palliative care is appropriate for patients at any stage of a serious illness, and not just at the end-of-life. Patients who receive palliative care may continue to receive chemotherapy, radiation, dialysis, surgery or other curative care for their condition. The focus of palliative care is to treat the symptoms of an illness and to provide support for the patient’s entire family.
Palliative care may be provided to patients in their homes and at hospitals, nursing homes, or at specialized clinics.
The Palliative Care Team
The palliative care team may include specially-trained physicians, nurses and other specialists who work closely with patients, caregivers and families. The patient’s other doctors are often involved to ensure that everyone on the palliative care team is on the same page.
Goals of Palliative Care
The palliative care team focuses on:
- Managing pain and other symptoms
- Coordinating care with the patient’s physicians
- Participating in the development of the patient’s care plan
- Helping patients and caregivers make decisions about care and advance directives