When a loved one is suffering from a serious diagnosis and a physician provides a prognosis that they do not have more than six months left to live, it may be time to consider the options of family hospice and palliative care. There are numerous circumstances that would call for a senior loved one to require hospice care. Hospice care is unlike any other form of medical care in the United States because it provides support to a patient’s family members as well as to patients. This can be done in many different ways including by providing daily support, providing bereavement support after a loved one passes or providing short-term respite care.
It is never easy to accept that a loved one is trying to cope with a life-limiting illness. This is particularly true if the condition has advanced quickly and caught the patient or family members by surprise. All the changes required when a loved one is diagnosed with a life-limiting illness can be overwhelming, but it may be prudent to consider whether hospice can help.
Read on to learn more about family hospice and palliative care and the factors that should be considered before placing a loved one in this care. Hospice care and palliative care are quite similar in terms of the general issues for individuals with a life-limiting illness care.
The Connection Between Family Hospice and Palliative Care
Many people have a basic idea of the kind of services provided by hospice care. However, what gets confusing is the fact that many hospice providers can also provide palliative care. Palliative care is one way of providing comfort services. An administered program of palliative care is becoming favored most often in hospitals.
As a supplement or adjunct to some of the other traditional options for care, both palliative care and hospice care offer patients to benefit from a collaborative approach associated with equipment, day to day care, medications, bereavement consulting, and treatment of symptoms will be administered in one program. Where hospice care and palliative care programs are different from one another has to do with the timing, payment, care location, and how a patient qualifies for care.
Hospice programs are more prevalent than palliative care options. Once a loved one has been enrolled via a referral initiated by a primary care physician, the patient’s actual care program is administered within the home. This program is usually supervised by a group of hospice staff. Hospice often counts on the family caregivers in addition to an outside visiting hospice nurse. Hospice can be provided in a hospital, around the clock or in a hospice facility or a nursing home.
Palliative care supports family members by helping individuals with life-limiting and chronic illnesses to be more comfortable through symptom and pain management. This reduces the patient’s stress and the stress of the primary caregiver who is additionally responsible for their care.
Care teams working with a palliative program involve professionals like nurses, doctors, and other medical caregivers frequently at the facility in which a patient usually initially receives treatments. These individuals are responsible for overseeing or administering the majority of the regular comfort care that patients receive. Although palliative care could be provided in the home, it is more popular to get palliative care in a facility like a nursing home or a hospital.
Differences Between Family Hospice and Palliative Care Timing
In order to be considered for hospice care, the patient must usually be classified as having an illness expected to result in his or her passing within six months in order to qualify for the majority of hospice programs or to get hospice benefits associated with insurance. For palliative care, however, there are no limits on time. Palliative care could be activated and received by a patient at any chosen time and at any illness stage, whether or not it is currently life limiting.
Where Family Hospice and Palliative Care Differ in Terms of Treatment
The majority of hospice programs focus on comfort instead of attempting to treat an aggressive disease. By foregoing extensive treatments to prolong life, patients in hospice are eligible to concentrate on enjoying their life without thinking about the negative symptoms or side effects that may be associated with other treatments geared towards prolonging life.
The majority of hospice patients have an overall goal of achieving a kind of comfort to cope with their needs. For palliative care, however, the treatment is often different. No time restrictions are associated with receiving palliative care.
It often helps to close the gap for individuals who need and want comfort with their disease, whether or not this disease is chronic or life limiting. Within the palliative care structure, there is not a requirement or stipulation that any therapies for the purpose of prolonging life could be avoided. There are usually exceptions, however.
Family Hospice and Palliative Care
Family members may play a different role depending on whether or not the patient is receiving hospice care or palliative care. When it comes to hospice, the staff are trained to a take a family-oriented approach towards care. While many different professionals and volunteers are part of most hospice programs, families can still play a critical role in this process, working together with the hospice team to assist a loved one.
Essential Roles of Family Members
In hospice care, family members play several roles, such as providing comfort, discussing any advanced directives, understanding and observing cues from the patient, and helping with communication.
Learning to Provide Care
Any family member who will be regular interaction with the patient can learn more about how to provide comfort by speaking with the hospice staff. Likewise, even with the impacts of a life-limiting illness, family members can learn how to observe cues from the patient. Learning how to understand when a family member is signaling that he or she needs water or other assistance may become more important if the patient is no longer able to give verbal cues. Working and communicating with the hospice care team is critical for any family member wanting to provide support.
As soon as possible, it is recommended that family members be involved in the process of discussing advanced directives as well. These directives can help to ensure that a loved one’s wishes are carried out. This conversation should be one that occurs both with the patient and the family lawyer.
Making the Decision About Hospice
Making the decision on whether or not to place a loved one in hospice care often involves a team of people. During this time, evaluating all options is beneficial, but hospice care may present as the best possible way to give a loved one support. In the event that all stakeholders agree on hospice care, selecting the right hospice care team makes a big difference. There are key questions that need to be answered, including where the patient will receive the care. While payment issues like Medicare also must be addressed, an experienced hospice team can help to provide the necessary support to a patient in addition to that patient’s family members.
Supporting Patients and Families Together
When making this challenging decision, remember that the hospice care team will be a critical component of care for the patient, but those same professionals also provide valuable support for the family members of that patient, too. The selection of the right hospice provider is essential for everyone involved. Getting the comfort care and support needed sooner rather than later can make things easier for a loved one coping with a life-limiting illness. Make the choice carefully and select a team that can provide all aspects of hospice care.