A great deal of confusion remains when it comes to hospice, palliative and home health care, and there’s no better time to separate fact from fiction than now. There are distinct differences between the three terms; however, some of them overlap and morph into one another as the patient progresses.
Home Health Care
Home health care is just what it sounds like: health care services delivered in the comfort of your own home. Nurses, aides and volunteers visit the patient in the home to help treat an illness, injury or chronic condition. Examples of skilled home health services include:
Wound care for pressure sores or surgical wounds
Patient and caregiver education
Intravenous or nutrition therapy
Monitoring of serious illness and unstable health status
Monitoring of blood pressure, temperature, heart rate and breathing
Supervising of prescription and other drugs
Safety management in the home
Education about self-care
Care coordination and communication
The goal is to TREAT an illness or injury, helping the patient get better, regain their independence, and become as self-sufficient as possible, says Medicare. Patients are typically assigned a home health care team that comprises a nurse, physical therapist, home health aide to assist with personal care, social worker for short-term counseling, and dietitian to provide healthy meal guidance. Home health care can be just for the short term until the patient feels they no longer need help; or, it can extend into the long-term especially where chronic conditions are concerned. It can also extend into hospice care in the future.
Palliative care is also provided within home health care and is a component of hospice care as well, which is where the confusion arises. So, let’s go into the next option…
Palliative care addresses symptoms, relieves pain, and maximizes quality of life for people living with serious illness, providing another layer of help for those who may be receiving curative treatments such as radiation or chemotherapy. Essentially, palliative care is a form of specialized medical care for people with serious illness, with the focus on providing relief from the symptoms and stress of a serious illness, according to Get Palliative Care. The goal is to enhance quality of life for both the patient and the family, with care provided by a specially-trained team of doctors, nurses and other specialists who work in conjunction with the patient’s existing doctors. Anyone at any age and at any stage in a serious illness can turn to palliative care along with curative treatment.
It’s important to note that hospice and palliative care both offer compassionate care to patients with life limiting illnesses; however, palliative care – also a component of hospice care – can be used as a separate area of medical practice while the patient receives treatment.
When a patient has six months or less to live, the transition to hospice care is made. However, you don’t have to wait for your loved one’s physician to recommend hospice care. Be an advocate and research all healthcare options on your own, and keep the lines of communication open. Hospice care is designed to provide pain management, symptom control, psychosocial support, and spiritual care to patients and their families when the illness cannot be cured. The nation’s hospices serve more than 1.5 million people every year and their family caregivers, as well..
The focus with hospice is caring, not curing. It can take place in the patient’s home, a nursing home or in a hospice care facility. Many people assume hospice is only called in the final moments of life. However, studies show that pain and symptom management is more effective when delivered earlier in the disease process. Fully covered by Medicare, Medicaid, and most private insurance plans and HMOs, hospice is more about living than dying. That’s because it is meant to provide the best quality of life possible for patients whose prognosis leads doctors to believe they will not live past six months. They are often in pain, particular with end-stage diseases like cancer, in addition to the discomfort brought about by previous treatments like chemotherapy. While hospice is thought of as solely a last option for the dying, patients sometimes improve and can be discharged from hospice.