Author: Tonia Barrier, MSN, RN, CHPN, CLHP Posted: June 14, 2022
A brief overview of the differences and similarities between palliative and hospice care
When it comes to the difference between palliative care and hospice care, many people are unsure of what those differences are. This confusion is understandable, as the two terms frequently are used interchangeably. However, there are some fundamental differences between these two types of care. In this article, we will explore those differences and similarities in depth. We will also discuss the importance of how palliative care fills the care gap between home health and hospice care for patients living with serious illnesses.
Although both palliative and hospice care may help with end-of-life patient management, there are unique differences between the two specialty service lines. Palliative care is specialized medical care for people with serious illnesses. The focus is on relieving the symptoms and stress of the disease to improve the quality of life for both the patient and their family. Hospice care is the model for quality, compassionate care for people facing a serious, life-limiting illness or injury. This type of care involves a team approach to expert medical care, pain management, and emotional and spiritual support specifically tailored to the patient’s needs.
Palliative care is typically provided by a team of doctors, nurse practitioners, nurses, and other health professionals. These professionals work collaboratively with the patient’s other healthcare providers as an extra layer of support and could be appropriate at any age and stage of the serious illness, even in conjunction with curative treatments. Alternately, hospice care focuses on quality and comfort for the remaining time the patient has left versus curative care. Hospice care could also be appropriate at any age but is intended for terminally ill patients with a prognosis of six months or less if their disease runs its natural course.
A primary breakdown of palliative and hospice care services
Palliative care focuses on relieving and managing burdensome symptoms to improve the patient’s quality of life when faced with serious illnesses. For people living with these conditions, palliative care may be essential to managing taxing symptoms while receiving treatment. This type of care could be delivered in an inpatient or outpatient setting, depending on the person's needs, and works to holistically manage the patient by collaborating with all care providers involved in the patient's care. Palliative is commonly utilized alongside other treatments for serious illnesses, such as chemotherapy or radiation therapy, to improve the quality of life for patients.
Palliative and hospice care are both types of end-of-life care that focus on providing comfort and support to the patient and their family rather than actively trying to cure the underlying illness. However, one main difference between the two is that palliative care can be provided at any stage of a serious illness. In contrast, hospice care is only provided when a cure is no longer possible or desired, and death is the likely outcome of the progressive disease. Though there are some differences between palliative and hospice care, both providers diligently work to provide comfort and support to patients and their loved ones. They both focus on relieving symptoms and providing a peaceful end-of-life experience throughout the disease trajectory.
Bridging the gap between home health and hospice with palliative care
Palliative care is also highly beneficial when provided concurrently to patients receiving home health services to recover from an acute event. This service helps patients manage their symptoms and improve their quality of life, no matter the stage of their illness. Often, there could be a gap of time between when a patient living with serious illnesses may no longer qualify for home health care but is not quite ready for hospice care. This care gap could create the potential for worsening symptoms while not being as closely monitored as when the care team was making visits to the home. Palliative care can support patients between home health care and hospice care by relieving symptoms like pain, shortness of breath, nausea, and anxiety. This support can allow patients to stay at home for as long as possible and receive the care they need, potentially lessening emergent care needs related to symptom exacerbation. For patients who no longer qualify for home health care but are not ready for hospice care, palliative care can be an ideal option for additional support.
Common misconceptions about palliative and hospice care
Many common misconceptions about palliative and hospice care could cause the underutilization of these much-needed services. One misconception is that palliative care is only for people who are “giving up” on their health. However, palliative care can benefit patients with various conditions, from Alzheimer's disease to cancer, throughout their disease and in conjunction with curative treatments. Studies have shown that when palliative care is initiated alongside potentially curative treatment, the patient’s clinical and quality of care outcomes are improved. Another misconception is that hospice care is only intended for people in their final days of life. However, several studies have shown that earlier admission to hospice care results in higher patient and family satisfaction during their end-of-life experience. Despite popular belief, hospice care can begin many months, or in rare cases, even longer before a patient passes away.
How to know if palliative or hospice care is the best choice for your patient
As we've explored, palliative care focuses on relieving symptoms and distress at all stages of serious illness. It can also greatly benefit patients when coexisting with home health services following an acute medical event. In turn, hospice care focuses on comfort and improves the quality of life when curative options may no longer be practical options. Maxwell Healthcare Associates is a team of post-acute industry veterans who are passionate about helping home health and hospice providers survive and thrive. Our hospice and palliative care experts are here to answer any questions you may have about these two types of care and how they can benefit your patients. Visit our website to learn more about our team and our services, or contact us today for more information.