For years I thought palliative Care and hospice Care were one and the same. When hospice was called 14 years ago for my mother, both services were mentioned but because the doctor mentioned only hospice care, we thought that was all that was needed. When we met with the hospice care team I noticed both services were on the pamphlet and asked about palliative care and the difference between the two. Here are some clarifications:
Palliative care focuses on relieving symptoms that are related to chronic illnesses, such as cancer, cardiac disease, respiratory disease, kidney failure, Alzheimer’s and Dementia, Acquired Immune Deficiency (AIDS), Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) and other neurological diseases. Palliative care can be used at any stage of illness not just the advanced stages. Palliative care can be considered at anytime during the course of a chronic illness and can be delivered at any location and services are typically provided through regular physician and nursing visits. Treatments are not limited with palliative care and can range from conservative to aggressive/curative. This type of care can be considered at anytime during the course of a chronic illness.
Hospice care focuses on palliation of symptoms and the goal is no longer to cure, but to keep the patient comfortable. Hospice care is end-of-life care. Hospice services are recommended by your physician once he or she has certified that you’re terminally ill and have a life expectancy of 6 months or less. Once hospice is called, a hospice care team will consist of a physician, a nurse a home health aide, a social worker, a chaplain and a volunteer. The hospice team reviews the entire patient’s and family’s needs with an emphasis on controlling pain and symptoms. Patients are treated with the most advanced techniques available including emotional and spiritual support. Hospice recognizes that a serious illness affects the entire family as well as the person who is ill and from my own personal experience, members of a hospice team strive to make sure everyone is comfortable with all of the changes that are happening.
If you have a loved one with a terminal illness and you are considering hospice, take it from someone who’s had to make that call. You are not giving up, but are allowing your loved one a peaceful dignified end to their journey.