When people are dying from illness or they have a chronic and aggressive illness, there are options for improving the quality of life. For those who are definitely terminal, either hospice or palliative care can be used for this purpose. There are clear differences and similarities between each, considering that both deal with similar diseases.
What is Hospice?
Hospice care is invoked when someone has a terminal illness and they are within six months of the expected mortality. The care is in a medical center and does not involve treatments to prolong life. Instead, the focus is purely on the quality of life, allowing patients to make the best of the time they have left in this life. It is a compassionate approach to a final result.
What is Palliative Care?
Palliative care can be invoked at any time and thus does not have any time limit. It can be for terminal illness and for chronic illness. Again, like hospice, the focus is on the improvement of the quality of life. However, treatments that prolong life may still be used and palliative care does not at all exclude such approaches.
It takes multiple medical and nursing disciplines to make palliative care work. Medications, treatments, and certain therapies are used to greatly ease suffering and pain so the person can feel better even with the illness at hand.
Which One is Best?
It all depends entirely on the situation whether hospice or palliative care is appropriate. In cases of terminal illness reaching final stages, it may be the only option. On the other hand, if home care with a palliative approach is possible, a patient and caregivers may opt for that.
Hospice care is given specifically at centers just for that care while palliative can be out of any medical practice or facility for that purpose. If life-prolonging treatments are planned or being used, that is an automatic disqualification for most hospice programs. When one enters hospice, there is no expectation to leave. That will be where death occurs.
A Death Sentence?
One should not think of palliative care as a death sentence. Neither should hospice be considered one, but some people may think it so. Palliative care is given for comfort even if the chances of survival are good or it is not a terminal illness, just chronic. Therefore, the palliative approach actually has nothing to do with death at all.
Hospice is, however, set to be a place for death. It is fully intended for those final days, weeks, or months of a terminal disease. At the same time, everyone has to die at some time so there is no real death sentence with hospice either. It is simply a way to make the end of life’s time much easier to handle.
When the Time has Come
Ultimately, the decision for hospice or palliative care alone should be made by the patient. If that person cannot make such a decision, then it should be made by someone who is very close to the patient.