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What is Palliative Care?

According to the National Institute of Health (NIH), palliative care is “specialized medical care for people living with a serious illness, such as cancer or heart failure.” Patients receiving palliative care are given treatment that looks at mitigating the symptoms of their illness. Palliative care also has a strong focus on quality-of-life issues for both the patient and their families.

What is the difference between hospice care and palliative care?

Palliative care differs from hospice care in that it is not focused on end-of-life patients but on patients with very serious or life-threatening conditions. Palliative care and hospice, however, share many of the same services and methods of practice. Both services provide a team of medical professionals to help care for both the needs of a patient and the needs of their family. 

The biggest difference between palliative care and hospice is the fact that many palliative care patients are still looking for a cure to their condition. Palliative care plans often differ from hospice plans as they look at patient survival on top of standard quality-of-life practices.

Determining if a patient requires hospice or palliative care can be difficult to determine for older patients and must be evaluated by a medical professional.

The NIH has a great spreadsheet of the similarities & differences between hospice & palliative care:

Question: Who can be treated?

Palliative Care: Anyone with a serious illness

Hospice: Anyone with a serious illness who doctors think has only a short time to live, often less than 6 months

Question: Will my symptoms be relieved?

Palliative Care: Yes, as much as possible

Hospice: Yes, as much as possible

Question: Can I continue to receive treatments to cure my illness?

Palliative Care: Yes, if you wish

Hospice: No, only symptom relief will be provided

Question: Will Medicare pay?

Palliative Care: It depends on your benefits and treatment plan

Hospice: Yes, it pays for some hospice chargesYes, it pays for some hospice charges

Question: Does private insurance pay?

Palliative Care: It depends on the plan

Hospice: It depends on the planIt depends on the plan

Question: How long will I be cared for?

Palliative Care: This depends on what care you need and your insurance plan

Hospice: As long as you meet the hospice\’s criteria of an illness with a life expectancy of months, not years.

Question: Where will I receive this care?

Palliative Care & Hospice:

  • Home

  • Assisted living facility

  • Nursing home

  • Hospital

  • Palliative care clinic

  • Home

  • Assisted living facility

  • Nursing home

  • Hospice facility

  • Hospital


Palliative care is available for patients living with a serious or life-threatening illness or condition. The most common conditions associated with palliative care include:

  • Cancer

  • Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease

  • Dementia

  • Heart failure & other conditions

  • Parkinson’s Disease

Patients with these conditions (and others) face the daunting challenge of finding out what care best suits their needs. Palliative care programs and teams can lend support and help solve problems or overcome the obstacles associated with end-of-life care or hospice needs.

Where is Palliative Care Provided?

Palliative care can take place in-home or at a recommended medical facility. Medical facilities that offer palliative care services include nursing homes, hospitals, and specialized palliative care facilities.

As with hospice care, palliative care facility options are often limited to patients due to medical coverage. While Medicare and Medicaid both cover palliative care, it can be hard to find a facility that will cover all the needs of a given patient.

Who Gives Palliative Care?

Similar to a standard hospice team, a palliative care team is comprised of a diverse group of medical professionals. Palliative care teams consist of:

  • Doctor with a palliative care specialty

  • Nurse with a palliative care specialty

  • Chaplain

  • Social Worker

  • Nutritionist

A palliative care team works together to give the best possible care to a patient and their family. Coordination between the team members is very important when it comes to giving a patient the best possible care.

Benefits of Hospice Care & Medicaid

It can be difficult to determine when to choose hospice care for a loved one. Families of patients who receive hospice care are more satisfied with end-of-life care. Hospice recipients are also happier with pain management and less likely to use medical services they don’t need or even want.

Medicare patients can receive hospice care if their doctor thinks they have less than six months to live–which can be a great option for those with limited financial resources. Medical professionals can have a hard time predicting how long a given patient will live. This means some people may need hospice care for more than six months.

This is why it is so important for potential hospice patients to talk with their doctor. If a patient’s doctor agrees but thinks it is too soon for Medicare to cover the services, then the patient can investigate how to pay for the services that are needed.

Doctors are also able to help patients get hospice aid if a patient is still close to dying, but has been in hospice for more than 6 months. Medicare can continue to pay for hospice services if a patient’s doctor deems it necessary. Patients can even leave hospice care for a while and return later if a doctor still believes they have less than six months to live.

Charlin Health Services

At Charlin Health Services we pride ourselves on honor, integrity, excellence, compassion, dignity, and trust. If you have any needs or questions about health services, hospice care, or other medical needs, please send us an email or give us a call.

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