Finding the right type of care for an aging loved one can be confusing, especially when it comes to hospice, home health, and palliative care. While there are differences among them, there is also some overlap as a patient may journey from one type of care to another. Understanding the options and which best meets your needs is the first step.
Hospice delivers end-of-life care for those who are no longer seeking medical cures for their ailment. It provides care and comfort for the terminally ill, including physical, emotional, and spiritual support. To qualify for hospice care, patients must be terminally ill with a life expectancy of six months or less. The focus is on comfort rather than cure.
Home health care is provided in the home by a variety of skilled health care professionals that may include nurses, physical therapists, nursing aides, dietitians, and social workers. The objective of home health is to support the patient as they recover from an illness or injury and regain their independence. If a patient suffers a chronic condition, they may receive more long-term home health care. The goal is to help patients become as self-sufficient as they can be.
Palliative care is the most misunderstood, falling somewhere in the middle, offering care in the home for those individuals undergoing curative medical treatments and who need additional support. While it is a form of home health care, palliative care focuses primarily on patients with chronic, quality-of-life-limiting illnesses such as cancer, heart failure, kidney disease, diabetes, dementia, Parkinson’s disease, and others. Palliative care seeks to treat and proactively prevent the symptoms and side effects of the disease and its treatment.
Understanding Palliative Care
In addition to caring for daily pain and symptom management, palliative care professionals work with patients and their families to better understand their illness, medical treatments, and the options open to them. They provide support to caregivers and families, recognizing that chronic illness affects everyone, not just the patient. They can also help families and their loved ones transition to hospice care.
Those suffering from serious, long-term conditions often experience emotional and social issues in addition to their physical pain. Palliative care teams are trained to work with patients and caregivers providing support in a wide variety of areas: depression and anxiety, supporting the needs of caregivers, financial counseling, and managing health care costs and legal planning.
Palliative care experts can also help build a social support network for both the patient and caregiver, connecting you with resources, support groups, and building a network of family and friends who can help share the responsibility.
There are several palliative care providers in Louisville, including UofL Health Palliative Care, Hosparus Health, and Norton Health Care Palliative Care Program. You can also visit the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization to find providers in your area.
Hospice, home health, and palliative care are covered by Medicare and most health insurance companies, but you’ll want to check with your insurance company to confirm.
By Kym Voorhees Raque
P.S. Here’s insight and advice for when relatives move in.