Weekly column

Chances are, we have all heard of hospice care for individuals with terminal and chronic illness. But did you know there is also a service available called palliative care that isn’t hospice? I can honestly say I did not know that palliative care existed for patients who are still undergoing treatments for an illness, such as cancer, who do not feel ready for hospice care. Today, I will discuss the differences.

How they are the same

Hospice and palliative care both offer compassionate care to patients with life limiting illnesses. But palliative care – which is always a component of hospice care – can be used as a separate area of medical practice while the patient is receiving treatment.

Hospice care includes palliative care and addresses the patient’s physical, emotional and spiritual needs as well. Hospice can help with such daily activities as administering medications, bathing and dressing, but hospice does not provide full-time caregivers. Hospice requires that a willing, able and available caregiver be in the home unless alternate arrangements are made.

Palliative care is also focused on relieving symptoms associated with the patient’s condition while receiving active treatment.

When they are used

Hospice care is reserved for terminally ill patients when treatment is no longer curative during the last six months of life, assuming the disease takes its normal course.

Palliative care can be employed while the patient is continuing active treatment through different phases of their life-limiting condition.

Emotional care

Hospice care and palliative care treat the whole patient and the family, offering psychosocial and spiritual counseling.

Payment methods

Hospice care is paid for in full by the Medicare Hospice Benefit and by Medicaid Hospice Benefit. Most insurances and the Veteran’s Administration also cover hospice services in full or with minimal co-pays.

Palliative care is paid for by Medicare, Medicaid and most private insurances if the patient meets criteria.

Where care is received

Hospice care is most often provided in a patient’s home setting – regardless of whether it’s a house, apartment, nursing home, assisted living facility or other setting. Some hospices offer inpatient services in hospitals, hospice facilities, skilled nursing facilities or assisted living facilities.

Palliative care is most often received in the home, apartment or during a short-term hospital admission.

The point of making the distinction between palliative care alone and hospice is try to show families, patients and caregivers the benefits of getting help in the home at an early stage. Caregiving for someone with a chronic or terminal illness can be exhausting. Be sure to discuss all of your options for help with your physician.

For more information on this and other caregiver resources, call the Butler County Department on Aging at 775-0500.