What's The Difference Between Hospice And Palliative Care?

People can encounter a wide range of medical care throughout their lives. It seems the medical system has specialists for every step of the way, including care for those with chronic and terminal diseases. These kinds of health challenges often require special care — like palliative and hospice care. A patient may receive both types of care throughout their illness, but each has distinct roles and objectives (via the National Institute on Aging). 

Palliative care is for those with a serious medical condition who may or may not still be receiving curative treatments. This includes people with dementia, cancer, and heart conditions. When patients choose palliative care, they choose a care system that focuses on improving their quality of life. This can include assisting with symptom management or helping the patient choose between different medical treatments, according to the National Institute on Aging. This team can consist of doctors, nurses, social workers, nutritionists, and chaplains. If the patient's doctor feels that ongoing treatment is no longer helping, they may recommend that the patient cease curative treatment and transition to hospice care. 

How hospice care helps patients and families

Hospice care is intended for those nearing the end of their lives and focuses on care, comfort, and quality of life. The most significant difference between hospice and palliative care is that there's no longer an attempt to cure the disease. And patients should consider beginning hospice care sooner rather than later (via the National Institute on Aging). This kind of end-of-life care brings together many different specialists, including doctors, nurses, social workers, spiritual advisors, and trained volunteers, all with a common goal to provide emotional, physical, and spiritual support for the patient and their caregivers

This care can be provided at home or a facility and is intended to give the patient and their family meaningful time together as the condition naturally runs its course, according to the National Institute on Aging. It can be a challenging and scary time for patients and families considering hospice care. But families of people who received hospice care are often more satisfied with end-of-life care than those who did not have hospice services.

Both palliative and hospice care options are valuable tools for people facing chronic and life-threatening conditions. Ultimately each patient must decide which best serves their needs and those of their loved ones.