If you or a loved one are contending with a serious illness, your doctor has spoken with you about treating pain. In your discussion, the doctor probably mentioned “palliative care” or “hospice care.” Both types of care bring comfort and relief, but they differ in some significant ways. To get the best care possible, you need to know what each service offers.
What Is Palliative Care?
The goal of palliative care is to help ease your pain and help with your medical problems if your illness is serious, but not considered life-threatening. It helps people live with the symptoms of lengthy diseases such as kidney disease, cancer, HIV/AIDS, or the side effects of treatments you’re receiving.
Palliative care supplements other treatments you’re receiving; it doesn’t replace them. Instead, it’s additional treatment that helps you deal with things like nerve pain, nausea, or shortness of breath.
Palliative care helps if you’re having difficulty with mobility or feeling the effects of depression caused by your illness. It’s designed to comfort you and help you live as active a life as possible.
Palliative care is begun at the discretion of your physician at any time, at any stage of illness, whether it’s terminal or not.
What Is Hospice Care?
Hospice care is for people who have been diagnosed by two physicians as having less than six months to live. Its purpose is to ease pain and help families prepare for the end of life.
Whereas palliative care typically takes place in a medical facility, hospice care usually is performed at home, where professionals and family members can look after them. You’ll also find specialized centers for hospice care, and it’s offered at some nursing homes and hospitals.
There are also “interdisciplinary teams” that deliver both palliative and hospice care. They address physical, emotional, and spiritual pain, and they help alleviate stress over common concerns such as loss of independence, the well-being of the family, and feeling like you’re a burden.
Paying for Palliative vs. Hospice Care
Hospice care costs are paid by private insurance, Medicaid, or Medicare, and is the only Medicare benefit that includes medical equipment, pharmaceuticals, grief support for family members following death, 24/7 access to care, and other services.
By comparison, Medicare Part B and Medicaid cover some types of palliative care, but there may be co-pays for some medications and treatments that aren’t covered. This also applies to private insurance plans, which typically do cover palliative care. Check with your insurer for verification.
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