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Palliative Care vs Hospice – which is right for me or my loved one?

There can be a lot of confusion about the definitions of palliative care and Hospice – so much so that the New York State Dept. of Health requests that licensed home health care agencies, such as COHME, provide education about them. That’s because misinformation about these topics can lead individuals to avoid getting helpful care due to misunderstanding of the purpose of the care.

We want families to completely understand the options available so that they are able to best help the ones they love.

Palliative care is the umbrella term for “pain management” for people who experience debilitating or chronic pain at any stage of life. It seeks to alleviate pain with the goal of enhancing quality of life. Many hospitals have specialized palliative care units or clinics. Most private insurance policies will pay for palliative care services.

Hospice is a comprehensive program of care for individuals who doctors believe to have a life expectancy of 6 months or less due to a terminal or debilitating chronic condition. Hospice includes pain management as one of its service offerings in addition to nursing, social work, pastoral care and volunteer visits. It is provided by a select number of agencies and is paid through Medicaid, Medicare and most private insurances.

People are frequently hesitant to consider Hospice care for a loved one who is nearing end-of-life or who has a terminal diagnosis. They can feel that bringing in Hospice signals they are “giving up” on their loved one, even when there is a terminal diagnosis. However, studies have shown that the sophisticated pain management and supportive services provided through Hospice can often extend life as well as improve the quality of life.

Also, there is a common misperception that pain management leads to addiction. Addiction occurs when someone keeps taking pain medication after their pain has ceased. As long as someone adheres to their doctor’s instructions, the risk of addiction is minimal.

Want to learn more about whether palliative care or Hospice care is right for you or your loved one? Call us 24/7 at (212) 514-7147.


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