Hospice and Palliative Care Awareness

November is National Hospice and Palliative Care Awareness month so today I wanted to share some information about the two and answer some of the common questions.

What is the difference between hospice and palliative care?

While palliative care and hospice both provide the patient with comfort palliative care is done at the time of diagnosis and during treatment. Hospice takes over (if the patient and doctor feel it is best) when it is known that the patient will not survive their diagnosis. Hospice agencies begin their care when a patient has been told they have less than six months to live. Hospice care also does not allow curative treatment, for example radiation and chemotherapy for cancer.

Can you switch back to palliative care from hospice care?

Yes, you can. If you, or your doctor, decide that another treatment is possible you can switch back to palliative care. Also, if your life expectancy changes to beyond six months you are no longer eligible for hospice and can go back to palliative care.

Can I use my doctor on hospice or do I need to be seen by the hospice doctor?

Once you are admitted to a hospice care team you will be seen by the hospice doctor but can absolutely keep your personal doctor on your team, as well. They will act with the hospice doctor and the entire hospice team to assure your needs are met.

What are the different stages of hospice?

There are five stages.

Stage 1 – Planning for end of life care. The patient is allowed to make these decisions and the hospice team will help you navigate those decisions and supply you with any resources you may need to make a decision.

Stage 2 – Spiritual and emotional care. On your hospice team you will have (if you’d like to have their help) a chaplain, social worker, and counselors to aid you in any spiritual or emotional support you or your loved ones need. During this time you will be guided to understand the diagnosis, accept death, and be as ready as you can be for when the time comes.

Stage 3 – Help at home. For those who choose to remain at home the hospice team will help with chores, be a companion, help with dietary needs, etc. Your end of life care is very important and making you as comfortable as possible is the goal.

Stage 4 – Inpatient care. For those that either choose to go to a facility or needs the help from the assisted living facility, that option is there. Hospice teams work alongside hospitals and nursing home/assisted living facilities to provide the support for your end of life care.

Stage 5 – Bereavement support. Bereavement support is available to those who have lost a loved one. Once your loved one has passed the hospice team still works with the family to make sure that people are grieving in a healthy manner.

What exactly is palliative care?

Palliative care is a specialized care for people living with a serious illness. The main focus is providing relief from their symptoms and stress of the illness. The goal here is to improve your quality of life as well as the family of the patient.

Is there a cost to hospice and palliative care?

Medicare covers 100% of hospice by working with Medicaid, private insurance, and veterans administration. Palliative care is also normally covered by Medicare, private insurances, and Medicaid but it is always best to speak with your insurance agency to see if there are any copays or deductibles that need to be met.

What does palliative care offer?

Palliative care has six main goals across the board – integrated teamwork; pain management; holistic care; caring , compassionate, and skilled providers; timely care; and patient and family preparedness.

If you are asking what they offer in the home or facility, they offer the same as hospice does except they allow for curative treatment whereas hospice does not.

What are some diagnoses that one on palliative care or hospice may have?

Some of the diagnoses that you may see in patients on palliative care or hospice are: cancer, COPD, heart disease, lung disease, kidney disease, Alzheimer’s, ALS, etc.

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