Could palliative care or hospice care help your older adult?

These two services are often confused, so it’s important to understand the key differences and benefits of palliative care vs. hospice care.

Depending on their health conditions and the wants of families and loved ones, one or both of these services could significantly improve your older adult’s quality of life.

What is the difference between palliative care and hospice care?

Palliative care

Palliative care can be used during any stage of a serious illness and/or multiple co-morbidities. It helps seniors and family cope with the side effects of medical treatments, fears, and caregiver stress.

By relieving symptoms, palliative care often improves someone’s ability to tolerate medical treatments and their ability to recover.

The palliative care team, doctors, nurses, social workers and a care team, can also help families make difficult medical decisions, taking time to discuss pros and cons and being the coordinator with multiple specialists.

This gives seniors and caregivers more control because they’ll have a better understanding of treatment choices.

Hospice care

Hospice care is for patients who have multiple co-morbidities no longer want continued treatment or therapies to prolong life, are diagnosed with 6 months or shorter to live or a “failure to thrive”.

The main goal is to make your older adult as comfortable as possible. Hospice uses a combination of pain and symptom management plus emotional and spiritual support for seniors and families.

When your older adult has hospice care, visiting nurses eliminate the need to go to the doctor’s office and families can even get help with personal care tasks like bathing.

On-call help and support is also available – 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

9 top questions about palliative care vs. hospice care**

  1. Who can get this type of care?
    Palliative care: Anyone with a serious illness or co-morbidities no matter how long they’re expected to live.

    Hospice care: Someone with an illness who may not live beyond 6 months. This doesn’t mean they’re definitely going to die, but they’re sick enough that it could be a possibility.

  2. Can seniors continue to receive treatments to cure their illness?
    Palliative care: Yes, seniors could receive palliative care and curative treatments at the same time, one of the great benefits.

    Hospice care: Generally, no. Hospice focuses on treatments and medicines that relieve symptoms/pain.

  3. Is it covered by Medicare?
    Palliative care: Yes, some treatments and medications may be covered.

    Hospice care: Yes, Medicare will pay for hospice care charges.

  4. Is it covered by Medicaid?
    Palliative care: Yes, Some treatments and medications may be covered.

    Hospice care: In most U.S. states, Medicaid pays for all hospice care charges. Check with local hospice companies to make sure.

  5. Is it covered by private insurance?
    Palliative care: Maybe. Palliative care services are flexible and based on what your older adult needs, so coverage will depend on what services or treatments they’re using.

    Hospice care: Yes, most insurance plans cover hospice care.

  6. Who provides the services?
    Palliative care: Hospitals, hospice organizations, skilled nursing facilities

    Hospice care: Hospice organizations, hospice programs based out of a hospital

  7. How long can the care continue?
    Palliative care: It depends on your older adult’s needs and their insurance coverage (Medicare, Medicaid, or private).

    Hospice care: As long as your older adult qualifies for hospice.

  8. Where are these services provided?
    Palliative care: Wherever your older adult lives: At home, in an assisted living community, in a skilled nursing facility, in a hospital

    Hospice care: Wherever your older adult lives: at home, in an assisted living community, skilled nursing facility, or hospital. Some hospice organizations/hospitals also have facilities where people can live (hospice residence) or get short-term care for severe pain or symptom management.

  9. Is end-of-life care offered?
    Palliative care: This depends on the provider – be sure to ask. This usually is a smooth transition into hospice care.

    Hospice care: Yes, hospice organizations have end-of-life experts on staff.

**Medicaid and Medicare don’t use the word “palliative” it all falls under hospice services