For some people, preparing for an unforeseen or eventual serious illness makes just as much sense as preparing for an eventual death event in their life or in the life of a loved one. As such, our article covers one growing trend in health care: palliative care.
Just what it is, and how does it compare to another form of health care, hospice, is what we provide our readers to help them know their choices–should and when this time comes.
The Palliative Care Versus Hospice Care Focus
Let’s start by giving an example that makes it more clear as to the difference between the two forms of care available today.
Having just undergone spinal surgery, a young woman learns she also has a form of cancer. Constantly in pain now, for both the spinal condition and the advancing cancer, her family physician wisely advises her of two options available to her: hospice or palliative care.
Both can work together with one another; however, patients are many times not aware that there’s a palliative option also available.
What Is Palliative?
Usually, one’s primary health care or family physician is more concerned with their patient’s general health and treating the condition or disease.
In contrast, the palliative approach concentrates on preventing and alleviating suffering, improving your quality of life and helping the patients and their families cope with the other burdens imposed on them through the process.
The Palliative Approach Today
Being a new emerging medical specialty, there are more than 1,400 hospital palliative care programs in the U.S. Curiously enough, just 10 years ago, virtually nothing was taught on palliative care in medical schools.
Today, approximately 80 percent of the largest U.S. hospitals have a dedicated 300 beds each to palliative care programs. However, this kind of care is not restricted to large hospitals alone; smaller hospitals usually dedicate about 50 beds each to the programs. Moreover, this does not include programs set up in nursing homes, assisted living facilities and private homes.
Being an integrative, multidisciplinary concept in health care, the expertise of several groups of professionals is enlisted in this school of thought.
A Palliative Care Team Includes The Following:
- A physician
- A nurse
- A social worker
- A spiritual adviser
- A psychologist or psychiatrist
- A physical or occupational therapist
- A dietitian
- and a pharmacist
With palliative care, patients can receive attention at any stage of the illness–whether it’s terminal or not. Its mindset focuses more broadly on ministering to patients of any age suffering from serious, chronic or life-threatening illnesses.
Cancer, congestive heart failure, kidney failure, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, AIDS, Parkinson’s, Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis and Alzheimer’s, among others, are some of the illnesses addressed.
Palliative Care vs. Hospice: In the Future
Taking traditional protocol even further, when an attending physician determines there’s less than a six month life span left to the patient, hospice is considered.
A specialized kind of care designed as a means of support to terminally ill patients and their families, the focus is on comfort and quality of life–and not on finding a cure.
Knowing that having a pain-free and mentally alert end-of-life experience, one day at a time, is possible in many cases, hospice care focuses on bringing life to its conclusion in the way less stressful and less painful for a patient or their family.
Palliative vs. Hospice: Other Issues Addressed
More than likely, Medicare covers most, if not all, of your expenses, if they are administered through a hospital or approved medical provider.
Insurance coverage for hospice varies somewhat from one carrier to another. Some programs provide subsidized care for those needing economic help, or for those who have no insurance stipulation for hospice; however, most hospice programs come under the coverage of Medicare.
While most palliative solutions are not truly end-of-life focused, there can be exceptions to the rule. Therefore, consulting with your physician is recommended before enrolling in a palliative care program.
An explanation of treatment philosophy, process and protocol will help give one a clear view of what to expect from the offered program.
By concentrating on avoiding extensive life-prolonging treatment, the focus is on giving hospice patients the most comfort in the time they have left–without the negative side-effects associated with some treatments or medication.
While hospice programs predominate the health care industry, today the palliative option offers solutions that weren’t before available.
Moreover, new integrative and holistic approaches, when combined with hospice and palliative, are taking patient care to new levels in medical attention.
In short, when we speak of palliative care versus hospice, we speak of the proverbial comparison of peaches and grapefruit: we’re dealing with two different areas of concentration that many times complement and overlap each other.
Comfort is a prime priority with both. However, extending life or facilitating its departure from this earth is where both differ significantly.