What is hospice care?
Hospice care is specialized medical care for people with a limited life expectancy, typically less than six months. Hospice focuses on comfort and quality of life instead of curative treatment. Hospice care is appropriate when you have received a terminal diagnosis, and no longer want to seek curative treatments.
What is palliative care?
First, let’s talk about palliative care. When you hear the word “palliative,” you might think of palliation—to relieve without curing. That’s what palliative care is all about. It’s a type of medical care that helps relieve pain and symptoms from serious illnesses, like cancer or heart disease.
Palliative care is provided by a team of doctors, nurses, and other specialists who work together to provide an extra layer of support for patients and their families. Palliative care can be provided at the same time as curative treatments; it isn’t just for people with advanced-stage illnesses such as metastatic cancer or congestive heart failure (CHF).
In other words: hospice and palliative are not synonymous! Hospice is one specific type of end-of-life care that falls under the umbrella term “palliative.”
When should you stop hospice care?
There are many reasons why a patient may stop receiving care, but here are some of the most common ones:
- The medical staff determines that the patient is no longer dying. Patients (typically children) occasionally beat the odds and recover from illnesses that were once thought to be terminal. That’s certainly something worth celebrating!
- The medical staff determines that the patient is no longer in pain. Sometimes patients’ symptoms can be successfully managed by other means, such as a different medication or treatment plan.
- The family determines that the patient is no longer suffering and requests for hospice services to be discontinued accordingly. Unfortunately, there is not always a clear-cut way to measure whether someone is truly in pain or suffering for non-physical reasons, and therefore it can be difficult for doctors to help patients who are experiencing this type of discomfort.
Hospice and palliative care are similar but not the same.
Hospice care and palliative care are often confused for being the same thing, but there are some key differences between them. While both of these types of care aim to make a patient as comfortable as possible, hospice care is end-of-life care. Palliative care can be offered alongside treatment from the start of an illness. Hospice services may also provide support to family members in addition to the patient.