If either you or a loved one is dealing with a serious illness, then chances are there has been a great deal of discussion around the topic of pain relief, as this becomes a central concern for both the patient and the family.  The terms hospice and palliative care have probably both come up in those discussions.  Here is some information to help you understand the difference between the two types of care.

Hospice and palliative care are both designed to provide comfort and relief, but they do differ in a variety of ways.  Here is some useful information to help in the process of making the best choice for yourself or your loved one, when dealing with a serious and possible life-threatening illness.

What is Hospice Care?

Hospice care is for those individuals who are suffering from a terminal illness and is not expected to live for more than six months.  The primary purpose of hospice care is to provide pain relief and comfort for the patient while also helping families prepare for the end of life of their loved one.

Hospice care can take place in a variety of settings, including at home, in a nursing home, in a hospital, or in a specialized hospice facility.  No matter the setting, hospice care provides professional caregivers to look after the patient’s every need.  As well as doctors and nurses, hospice care also includes family members, clergy, counselors, or social workers who can help ease the grief and emotions related to the dying process.

What is Palliative Care?

Palliative care is for those individuals dealing with a serious, non-life threatening illness. The primary purpose of palliative care is to provide pain relief for the patient.

Palliative care helps people handle the symptoms of long-term illnesses including cancer, kidney disease, AIDs, or with the side effects of the treatments for the illness.  It does not replace other treatments but rather helps the patient and his or her family deal with issues such as nausea, shortness of breath or nerve pain. Palliative care workers can also provide support and help when an illness makes it more difficult for the patient to work, to play, to get around and to simply handle those tasked associated with everyday life.  They also provide support when the patient becomes depressed or emotionally exhausted. The purpose is to allow the patient to live and enjoy as active a life as possible.

Pain Relief

Both hospice and palliative care provide pain relief for the patient through the use of various medications.  These medications can range from the typical over-the-counter drugs like ibuprofen to stronger medications such as oxycodone or morphine.

Does Insurance Cover Hospice and Palliative Care?

Medicare pays for all charges related to hospice care.  Medicaid and private insurance providers also provide coverage for hospice care.

Unfortunately, palliative care is not as well covered.  Medicare and private insurance providers cover the costs of some medications, but definitely not all of them.  It is important to call your insurance provider to find out exactly which medications are covered by your policy, and which you will have to pay for out of pocket.

In Conclusion

Hospice and palliative care both provide comfort for the patient and his or her family. Palliative care begins at the time of diagnosis and continues throughout the treatment process.  Hospice care begins after treatment of the disease has stopped and it is clear that the patient will not survive the disease.

Doctors typically refer patients with a life expectancy of less than six months for hospice care, whether at home, in a nursing home, in an assisted living facility, or in a specialized hospice facility.