In addition to improving quality of life and helping with symptoms, palliative care can help patients understand their choices for medical treatment. The organized services available through palliative care may be helpful to any older person having a lot of general discomfort and disability very late in life. Palliative care can be provided along with curative treatment and does not depend on prognosis.
Hospice and palliative care are two healthcare approaches offering compassionate support to patients with life limiting illnesses. When a loved one is living with health issues it can be hard for him or her to understand what options may be available to help manage treatment, side effects, advance directive decisions, and decision-making around stopping treatment.
Palliative care is a resource for anyone living with a serious illness, such as heart failure, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, cancer, dementia, Parkinson’s disease, and many others. Palliative care can be helpful at any stage of illness and is best provided from the point of diagnosis.
Like palliative care, hospice provides comprehensive comfort care as well as support for the family, but, in hospice, attempts to cure the person’s illness are stopped. Hospice is provided for a person with a terminal illness whose doctor believes he or she has 6 months or less to live if the illness runs its natural course.
With palliative care a patient can pick from a variety of services. He/she can still seek curative treatment (e.g., get chemo, radiation, home health) and also have a palliative care team to help with symptoms management, pain management, help the patient and family review advance directives in depth. Palliative care is billed to Part B Medicare. Palliative care usually is outpatient care with a visit about every 4 weeks by a nurse practitioner.
With hospice, the emphasis is on comfort care and quality of life and requires a terminal diagnosis of 6 months or less. A valuable service, bereavement services, are available free of charge for up to 13 months for family and close friends grieving the loss of their loved one.
An aging life care professional, also known as a geriatric care manager, can be a valuable addition to your and your loved one’s team. Professional care managers are experts in family care-giving and serious illness.