Understanding Hospice Care and Palliative Care

Palliative care is often confused with hospice care. Palliative care is for a patient with a chronic illness who can continue to receive curative treatments. Hospice care is for a patient with a terminal illness who has chosen to forgo curative treatments. Choosing hospice care means choosing not to aggressively treat the condition that is likely to cause death; however, it does not mean the hospice patient gets no medical care. Relief of pain is a major focus of hospice care. Hospice and palliative care benefits are available through most health insurance plans including Medicare, Medicaid and most private plans.
The following is the definition of hospice care from the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization:
Hospice care is for people facing a life-limiting illness or injury. Hospice care involves a team-oriented approach to expert medical care, pain management and emotional and spiritual support expressly tailored to the patients’ needs and wishes. Support is provided to the patient’s loved ones as well.
The following is the definition of palliative care from the World Health Organization:
Palliative care is an approach that improves the quality of life of patients and their families facing the problems associated with life-threatening illness, through the prevention and relief of suffering by means of early identification and assessment and treatment of pain and other problems, physical, psycho-social and spiritual.

Hospice and Palliative Care:

  • Provides relief from pain and other distressing symptoms;
  • Affirms life and regards dying as a normal process;
  • Intends neither to hasten nor postpone death;
  • Integrates the psychological and spiritual aspects of patient care;
  • Offers a support system to help patients live as actively as possible until death;
  • Offers a support system to help the family cope during the patient’s illness and in their own bereavement;
  • Strives to enhance the quality of life, and may also positively influence the course of the illness.

To choose hospice means choosing to not aggressively treat the condition that is likely to cause death, however, it does not mean the hospice patient gets no medical care. Relief of pain is a major focus of hospice care.

Hospice benefits are available through most health insurance plans including Medicare, Medicaid and most private plans.


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