For patients dealing with serious illnesses, palliative care and hospice care are often the best options. But choosing between these can be a tough decision. To help you out, we look into both and compare them to see which one you should select.
Understanding Palliative Care
The first one we take a look at is palliative care. In its most basic definition, it is a system of medical care designed to help patients alleviate their symptoms. Its goal is primarily to manage these symptoms and the side effects of treatment to make patients more comfortable. The system is composed of several essential parts.
Management of Physical Symptoms
Alleviating the physical pain the patient is feeling is palliative care’s main priority. Beyond that, it also deals with other symptoms that might cause discomfort. These include things like lack of sleep, shortness of breath, and loss of appetite.
To deal with these, the care provider resorts to several treatment methods, including:
- Nutritional guidance
- Physical therapy
- Occupational therapy
- Integrative therapy
The actual combination of these methods will depend not just on the patient’s conditions but also their needs and wishes. For instance, they may wish to have some form of independent mobility. Care providers can create a therapy program to support that desire while ensuring that they won’t have unwanted side effects.
Managing Emotional Issues
Aside from handling physical symptoms, palliative care also looks out for the emotional well-being of the patient. As it is, they might be feeling a significant amount of stress due to their condition. Some of the common issues they can encounter include:
The patient’s family might also experience these conditions as they try to accept their loved one’s situation. They also find themselves struggling to take care of the patient while handling other duties.
For all of these concerns, the palliative care provider can arrange meetings with counselors. They might also connect the family to support groups and mental health providers who can assist them further.
In connection with helping patients and families maintain their mental well-being, care providers also offer spiritual services. They either have their chaplains or can connect you with the religious ministry of your choice. The service can help in moving towards acceptance and peace of mind.
Dealing With Practical Problems
Outside of these major points, palliative care services can also help patients and families handle practical concerns surrounding their condition. Some of the additional support they can provide include:
- Explanation of complex medical terms related to their conditions.
- Connecting patients with financial counseling services
- Help connecting with housing or transportation services
All of these small things can make caring for patients a lot easier. As such, families should consider these when getting the service.
Understanding Hospice Care
Hospice care generally provides all of the above services. However, it has one crucial difference from palliative care. The latter provides comfort care for all seriously ill patients regardless of whether they are in a life-threatening situation. On the other hand, the former works exclusively on end-of-life patients.
This distinction leads to differing perspectives between the two. Depending on the prognosis, the goal of palliative care is lessening the pain the patient feels while waiting for a cure. Even in the case of incurable but non-terminal illnesses, the hope is still to see the patient getting better in the future.
With hospice care, the goal is to make the patient feel more comfortable as they wait out their last days. That sense of inevitability leads to a greater emphasis on helping them stay connected and interacting with their families during these days. Additionally, there is a greater need to support the family in accepting their eventual passing.
The Services Offered By Hospice Care
As noted above, hospice care provides a similar set of services to that of palliative care. But in addition to these, it has certain services specifically for dealing with eventual death. There are also ones to help the family after death.
Nursing and Medical Services
A major difference between nursing services provided by hospice care and palliative care is that the former provides 24-hour on-call nurses. This is so that patient vitals can be properly monitored and their passing immediately reported and addressed. Aside from the on-call nurse, there is also a case manager who visits weekly.
Caring for a terminally-ill loved one can be emotionally taxing. To help families avoid caregiver burnouts, the hospice can provide this service. Here, the patient is temporarily transferred to a professional care facility like a hospital or a nursing home. This gives the assigned caregivers time off for attending to other needs.
Grief and Bereavement Service
Contrary to what you might think, hospices provide bereavement services long before the patient’s death. Once they have received a terminal prognosis, the patient and their family will require emotional and spiritual support as they come to terms with it.
After the patient’s passing, the family can then get support for the following concerns.
- Moving through the grief process
- Dealing with adjustment issues
- Helping with decision making
- Creating a continued relationship with the deceased
All of these help the family accept the reality and start moving on with their lives. On the other hand, it can help them keep and cherish their memories with their departed relative.
When To Get Each Care Service
Palliative care can begin at any time, either through the attending doctor’s discretion or that of the patient. The latter has the option to continue curative treatments during their stay in the program. Patients can also request the service as a follow-up to their treatments.
On the other hand, hospice care begins when the patient has been diagnosed to have only six months or less to live. At this point, any attempts at curative treatment are stopped and the patient will only receive symptom relief. The patient can also request to be brought home to spend their remaining time.
Note that the two types of services can have an overlap depending on the patient’s condition. For instance, they might start with palliative care in the hopes of a cure. But if their condition worsens to the point of a terminal diagnosis, then they transition into hospice care. As such, your choice of service will ultimately lie in the outcome of your loved one’s condition.