Palliative care can help patients face the day if they’re suffering from pain, or if a recent diagnosis is causing anxiety, depression or loneliness. Palliative caregivers seek to improve your quality of life by treating symptoms like pain, nausea and sleep issues, but their expertise goes far beyond that.
“This specialized treatment can help you understand your illness better and get a clearer grasp on the steps you will be taking to feel better and live better,” said Dr. Beth Collins, director of palliative medicine at Lahey Hospital & Medical Center.
Palliative care may include discussing treatment options, nutritional advice and counseling. Specialized caregivers can help facilitate communication with your family members and doctors to ease the stresses associated with your diagnosis. And they can help you to decide which treatments you want, and which you don’t. The light they shed on your illness can bring with it peace of mind that can make future decisions and discussions easier to make.
What’s the difference between palliative care and hospice? While hospice is a type of palliative care, the terms are not interchangeable. Generally, hospice care is for patients who have been given around six months to live. This type of care is generally administered in the home or wherever the patient lives, but can also be given in a hospice care center or hospital.
“The main difference is that with hospice care, curative treatment has stopped, and the main goal has changed from curing the disease to making the patient as comfortable as possible,” noted Dr. Collins. “This is not to say that hospice care is giving up. Instead, it is a way to improve a patient’s quality of life in their remaining time.”
Both palliative care and hospice care are covered by most insurance plans, and hospice is also covered by Medicare and Medicaid for those who need it. Care can be extended for as long as it is needed, and patients can change their minds and resume treatments at any time. Even if you are not currently facing palliative or hospice care, it’s important to talk to loved ones about your wishes so they can help you make decisions about the your care in the future.