Often, you see palliative care and hospice care being discussed side by side.
Indeed, the two does share certain similarities amongst which pain and symptom relief is the main objective of both. Palliative and hospice care aim to help patients with a life-limiting or terminal illness get the best possible quality of life and live as comfortably as possible, as they near the end of life.
In terms of prognosis and goals of care though, the two tend to be quite different. One major distinction is that hospice care is comfort care without curative intent, while palliative care is comfort care with or without curative intent.
Hospice vs Palliative Care
It is worthy to examine this topic starting from the definition of both.
Hospice care is compassionate comfort care for people facing a terminal illness with a prognosis of six months or less. That is, if a doctor believes that ongoing treatment is no longer helping and that the person is likely to die within six months (if the illness is to run its natural course), then hospice care would be recommended.
Palliative Care Definition
Palliative care, on the other hand, is compassionate comfort care that provides relief from the symptoms (and physical and mental stress) that accompanies a serious or life-limiting illness. It can be pursued as early as at the time of diagnosis, during curative treatment and follow-up, and at the end of life.
As you can see, the timing of when an option is to be pursued is one big difference between the two.
Hospice needs a medical assessment indicating one has six months or fewer left to live. In other words, one can say hospice care is short-term, and is more of a synonym for end-of-life care.
Palliative care, however, can (and should) begin at any stage of a life-limiting illness. It isn’t necessarily about dying; it’s about living – managing symptoms (especially pain) so that one can have a better quality of life while undergoing treatments.
- Curative Treatment
This is a major distinction distinguishing between the two.
In order to receive hospice care, one will have to stop all curative treatments. Incidentally, it also means one is to accept that all sorts of treatments have been exhausted, yet the serious illness cannot be cured.
While attempts of any sort to cure the person’s illness are stopped, it is important to remember that this is different from discontinuing all treatment. You can still receive other medical care that will help with symptom relief (as much as possible) – it’s just that you will no longer receive treatments that will cure the illness.
E.g.: chemotherapy will stop for a cancer patient if it is determined that the cancer is not responding to it. If s/he has high blood pressure, s/he will still get medicine for that.
Unlike hospice care, one doesn’t have to stop receiving treatments for their disease under palliative care. S/he can still receive curative treatments but unlike the latter, palliative care focuses on alleviating one’s symptoms, helping one live a full life during the illness so that s.he can have a quality life.
So there you have it – the differences between hospice and palliative care at one glance. If this is something you’d like to pursue or find out more about, consult a palliative care Melbourne and they should be able to provide you with more information.