End of Life Planning

2/16/2021 | By Seniors Guide Staff

Two terms you will likely come across if either you or a loved one are coping with a severe illness are “hospice” and “palliative care.” While both refer to bringing comfort and pain relief, they contrast in other ways. You should understand what each of these critical services offers so that you choose the one that better serves your needs.

Although both are essentially about pain and symptom relief, the difference between hospice and palliative care is that each type of care’s prognosis and goals tend to be unique. Hospice is comfort care without the intent of healing. The patient has no curative options or has decided not to pursue further treatment since the side effects outweigh any benefits. On the other hand, palliative care provides comfort care with or without curative intent.

What Is an End-of-Life Doula?

Which type of patient would use hospice care?

People in hospice care have learned from their doctor that they are not expected to recover and have less than six months to live. Hospice care is typically given at home, although it could be delivered in a nursing home, assisted living facility, veterans facility, or hospital. No matter where it is administered, the goal is the same: easing pain and aiding families as they prepare for the end of life.

Because hospice is compassionate comfort care, it involves more than doctors, nurses, and other health professionals. In addition to family members assisting a seriously ill loved one, counselors, clergy, or social workers can address the grief of death and those emotions – anger, sadness, or regret – that can often accompany it.

Will insurance help to pay for hospice care?

Hospice care costs are paid by Medicare, the federal health insurance program for seniors. Medicaid, the federal-state health program for the poor, and most private insurers will cover these costs as well. Hospice care is the only Medicare benefit that encompasses pharmaceuticals, medical equipment, around-the-clock access to care, nursing, social services, chaplain visits, and grief counseling following the death.

A comparison between hospice and palliative care

Palliative care is defined as compassionate comfort care providing relief from a serious illness’s symptoms and stress. Patients can pursue palliative care right after diagnosis, during curative treatment, and at the end of life.

While there’s not much difference between hospice and palliative care in the sense that both provide medicines to ease pain, palliative care looks to lessen discomfort and help with other issues if the illness is serious but not considered life-threatening. It is designed to help people cope with the symptoms of long-term illnesses or the side effects of treatments such as chemotherapy or radiation.

Standard palliative care solutions include:

  • Pain management
  • Symptom management
  • Navigating treatment options
  • Advance care planning
  • Comfort measures to support the quality of life
  • Referrals to community resources

If the illness makes it difficult to work and get around or causes depression, palliative care can focus on that. Palliative care often returns some control to the lives of those with serious illnesses.

Who pays for palliative care?

Palliative care is not covered as thoroughly as hospice care. Medicare and private insurance might cover some medicines but not others. It’s always a good idea to check your policy or call your insurance company to confirm coverage since palliative care can vary by provider and insurance plan.

Summing up the two types of care

Hospice CarePalliative CareBoth Types of Care
Paid by Medicare, Medicaid, and private insurancePaid by insurance and the patientComfort care
Prognosis of six months or lessAny stage of the illnessOffers symptom relief of severe illnesses
Excludes curative treatmentCare is provided at the same time as a curative treatmentReduces stress
Care is given wherever the patient calls homeIt usually happens in the hospitalOffers physical and psychosocial relief

Seniors Guide Staff

Seniors Guide has been addressing traditional topics and upcoming trends in the senior living industry since 1999. We strive to educate seniors and their loved ones in an approachable manner, and aim to provide them with the right information to make the best decisions possible.

Seniors Guide Staff