November is National Hospice and Palliative Care Month, a time to celebrate and raise awareness about the life-changing services that offer comfort and support to individuals and their families facing serious illness and end of life. Hospice and palliative care play an important role in improving the quality of life, yet many misunderstandings still surround these offerings.
Let’s take a look at what’s helpful to know –
When to Start the Conversation:
Discussing healthcare goals, especially when facing a health issue or serious illness, can be an added burden or can feel like giving up. However, it’s important to start these conversations early. The right time to talk about hospice or palliative care is when someone becomes sick but isn’t sure what to do next. A phone call to a trusted provider like HopeWest, or your primary care physician could help to ease your worries. Open and honest discussions about healthcare goals can lead to better decision-making, and more personalized care.
Understanding the Differences:
Hospice care and palliative care are often used as the same term, but they have distinct differences. Hospice care is designed for individuals with life-limiting illnesses who are not receiving curative treatment, focusing on comfort and quality of life, typically provided wherever a patient calls home. The course of many illnesses is impossible to predict. But the longer a patient receives hospice care, the better quality of life they will have.
On the other hand, palliative care is often best for patients receiving curative treatments. It provides symptom management and is also provided where a patient calls home.
One of the most prevalent misconceptions is that entering hospice care means giving up on life. In reality, hospice focuses on providing medical care, pain management, as well as spiritual and emotional support based on each patient’s desires, allowing for quality of life. If a patient’s condition improves, they may choose to leave hospice care at any time.
In addition, many believe that hospice care is only for people with a few days or weeks to live. Yet the greatest outcomes are often seen for patients receiving care for two weeks or more.
Another misconception is that hospice care is only provided in a facility. While hospice facilities exist, most patients receive hospice care in their homes, allowing them to spend their final months, weeks, and days in a familiar and comforting environment.
And finally, hospice care is not only for patients with cancer. While cancer is commonly understood to be one of the most aggressive forms of illness, there are many conditions and symptoms that hospice professionals are trained to manage.
The Cost of Care:
The financial aspect of hospice and palliative care is another concern for many. Medicare and Medicaid cover hospice services, making them accessible to eligible individuals. Private insurance plans may also provide coverage for hospice and palliative care. Furthermore, nonprofit organizations and community-based programs like those at HopeWest can offer assistance for those without insurance. Financial considerations should not deter individuals from seeking the care they need.
Difference in Providers:
No two hospice and palliative care providers are the same. The differences can significantly impact the care and support a patient receives.
The quality of care and services can vary among hospice providers, making it crucial for patients and their families to research and choose a provider that aligns with their specific needs, values, and preferences. At HopeWest, we encourage everyone to visit the Medicare Hospice Compare Tool at medicare.gov/care-compare to view provider options based on survey feedback from family members and friends. And the following site also provides “Suggested Questions to Ask When Choosing a Hospice”.
Initiating conversations about healthcare goals, understanding the differences between these services and providers, dispelling misconceptions, and exploring financial options can help individuals and their families make informed decisions about their care.