Facing the reality of an aging family member is a difficult task, especially when it comes time to start asking the difficult questions about palliative or hospice care. Doing the research into treatment facilities can simultaneously be very important but very emotionally taxing. When you're looking into comfort care for your loved ones, one of the questions you'll need to ask is whether palliative or hospice care is the right choice for your family's needs. In either case, it's important to find care providers who will treat your family as one of their own and provide the tools needed to make this emotional process as easy and comfortable as possible, both for those receiving care and for caregivers.
What is the Difference Between Palliative and Hospice Care?
While palliative treatment is one part of hospice care, the inner workings of the two are very different. Palliative care is care that continues to focus on relief and treatment of medical symptoms, particularly in those whose illnesses are serious but not life-threatening. In simplest terms, palliative care contains the medical prong of treatment for your loved one, and can be performed by anyone from medical teams to massage therapists to psychologists who special in that branch of treatment.
Hospice care, on the other hand, is focused on providing comfort at the end of life in a much more holistic way. While it may include palliative care, particularly pain relief, hospice care is also about navigating the complex emotional process that family members and their loved ones go through during their final weeks and months.
Typically speaking, hospice care is most appropriate for people who have six months or less to live, and can be performed in nursing homes or in the home, where people can be surrounded by family as well as professional caregivers. Approximately 64% of hospice patients were over the age of 80 in 2016, and hospice treatment can ultimately help people who have lived such rich, full lives sort out the emotional complexities at seeing that journey draw to a close.
How Can Primary Caregivers Benefit from End-of-Life Care?
If it's important to you to be your loved one's primary caregiver rather than utilizing professional caregivers, you can still benefit from some aspects of hospice treatment such as respite care. Respite care allows primary care providers an opportunity to step away and take time for themselves without worrying that their family is going without the care they need. This can be especially important for primary caregivers with other obligations to tend to like families or jobs. Respite care can also be crucial in helping primary care providers nurture and maintain the relationships that will continue to be a major part of their lives after hospice care has ended, as well as continuing to keep vital support systems intact.
In addition to respite services, hospice care can also include providing resources to family members such as connections to therapists or grief support groups, both of whom can be vital parts of a holistic hospice care team.
No matter what stage you're at in planning for your loved one's care, the prospect of having to make these decisions can be a daunting one. As much as possible, try to have these conversations together, so that both of you can be sure that you're doing what's best for your family. Taking the mystery out of the different types of care won't make the choices any easier, but it can help you find a way to get started and make that first step.
If you have questions or concerns about hospice, palliative, or respite care, give our office a call and we'll be happy to speak with you. You'll be one step closer to easing your mind and allowing your loved one to receive the care they need with compassion, dignity, and grace.