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Hospice Care vs. Palliative Care

Understanding the Difference Between Them

Hospice caregiver holding hand of elderly woman.

Hospice Care is a special health care option for patients and families who are faced with a terminal illness. A multidisciplinary team of physician, nurses, social workers, bereavement counselors and volunteers works together to address the physical, social, emotional and spiritual needs of each patient and family.

Palliative Care is medical care provided by physicians, nurses and social workers that specializes in the relief of the pain, symptoms and stress of serious illness.

The hospice team provides care to patients in their own home or a home-like setting regardless of the patientís age or ability to pay. Hospice care is a covered service under Medicare Part A. Most insurance companies have hospice benefits.Check your policy or with your local agent to determine the provisions of your policy.

The goal of hospice care is to enable you to have an alert, pain-free life Ö to live each day as fully as possible. Hospice care affirms life and views death as a natural process.Hospice butterfly

Considered to be the model for quality, compassionate care for people facing a life-limiting illness or injury, hospice care involve a team-oriented approach to expert medical care, pain management, and emotional and spiritual support expressly tailored to the patient's needs and wishes. Support is provided to the patient' s loved ones as well.

At the center of hospice and palliative care is the belief that each of us has the right to die pain-free and with dignity, and that our families will receive the necessary support to allow us to do so.

How does Hospice work?

Typically, a family member serves as the primary caregiver and, when appropriate, helps make decisions for the terminally ill individual. Members of the hospice staff make regular visits to assess the patient and provide additional are or other services. Hospice staff is on-call 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

The hospice team develops a care plan that meets each patient's individual needs for pain management and symptom control. The team usually consists of:

  • The patient' s personal physician;
  • Hospice physician (or medical director);
  • Nurses;
  • Home health aides;
  • Social workers;
  • Clergy or other counselors
  • Trained volunteers; and
  • Speech, physical, and occupational therapists, if needed.
Hospice Team Responsibilities:

  • Manages the patientís pain and symptoms;
  • Assists the patient with the emotional and psychosocial and spiritual aspects of dying;
  • Provides needed drugs, medical supplies, and equipment;
  • Coaches the family on how to care for the patient;
  • Delivers special services like speech and physical therapy when needed;
  • Makes short-term inpatient care available when pain or symptoms become too difficult to manage at home, or the caregiver needs respite time; and
  • Provides bereavement care and counseling to surviving family and friends.

Hospice focuses on caring, not curing and, in most cases, care is provided in the patient's home. Hospice care also is provided in freestanding hospice centers, hospitals, and nursing homes and other long-term care facilities.

Hospice services are available to patients of any age, religion, race, or illness. Hospice care is covered under Medicare, Medicaid, most private insurance plans, HMOs, and other managed care organizations. Source: National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization.

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