Palliative care has its roots established in hospice care; however, it wasn’t until 1990 that the World Health Organization recognized palliative care as a separate entity. Ten years later, palliative care really took off in hospitals across the United State. Today, palliative care is offered in hospitals, senior living facilities, and in private homes.

November is National Hospice and Palliative Care Month. Throughout the month, hospice and palliative care organizations hope to raise awareness across the nation about the services they provide. The care provided through hospice or palliative care has great overlap. Because of this, it’s easy to confuse what each option can or cannot provide. In order to clarify, here are the major differences between hospice and palliative care.

Hospice Care

Hospice care is intended specifically for patients with a terminal diagnosis. The patient cannot seek active or curative treatment for their terminal diagnosis once they sign up for hospice care. Hospice also does not begin until the patient is in the final stages of an incurable illness or near the end of their life. Typically, this means that the patient has six months or less to live, although sometimes hospice care can begin sooner.

Hospice care provides care and support that is aimed at keeping the patient as comfortable as possible, helping to improve their quality life in their final months, weeks, or days. They offer pain management, symptom management, emotional and spiritual support, education, and more. You can expect a chaplain to check in from time to time, or more often as requested. Some hospice care providers provide alternative approaches to pain management that can help supplement pain medication, such as music therapy, aromatherapy, or guided meditation.

Hospice care can be provided in the hospital setting, although most patients prefer to receive hospice care in the comfort of their own home. Seniors who live in a senior living community can receive hospice care as well, in the comfort of their own apartment or room.

The hospice care team coordinates most of the plan of care for the patient and is responsible for communicating this information with the patient’s physician and/or medical care team.

Palliative Care

Palliative care is intended to support the patient at any stage of a life-limiting or chronic illness. A patient does not need to have a terminal diagnosis to benefit from palliative care. In fact, palliative care can coincide with curative treatment for life-threatening illnesses. When a patient chooses palliative care as they begin curative treatment, palliative care can actually help them manage symptoms or side-effects of such treatment.

Palliative care, at its core, is symptom-management. It seeks to keep the patient calm and comfortable, so they can continue to fight the life-threatening illness should they choose to do so. Palliative care helps with pain management and symptom management, while acting as another set of eyes and ears to notify the patient’s medical care team about any complications they may be experiencing. In addition to the physical support, palliative care patients can expect to receive emotional and spiritual care and support, education, and assistance with end-of-life decisions.

Palliative care can be provided in the hospital setting, at outpatient palliative care clinics, in private homes, or in senior living communities.

The palliative care team communicates with the patient’s physician and/or medical care team, but they act as a separate entity. The palliative care team focuses on symptom and pain management, whereas the medical care team focuses on treating the life-threatening illness. If you are in need of hospice care or palliative care, and aren’t sure where to begin, let Senior Living Solutions help walk you through the process. We are a free senior-living consultation agency and are very familiar with the offerings of our local communities. We have over 20 years’ experience in the healthcare industry and are familiar with the different needs seniors have as they age. Whether your goal is to age-in-place or receive care in a senior living community, we can help you find the care and support you need, no matter your stage of life. Contact us today by calling 501-650-3013.