Understanding the Important Distinctions Between Palliative Care and Hospice

Read Time: 5:08
Published: Nov 19th, 2020
Understanding the Distinctions Between Palliative Care and Hospice

Hospice care and palliative care are often used interchangeably causing people to assume they are the same. If not being used interchangeably, many people assume palliative care is only given in conjunction with hospice care, but in fact, palliative care can be given separately. Hospice is simply a type of palliative care.

This mistake can prevent people from using palliative care who could otherwise benefit. As we well know, chronic pain can come from a variety of sources. Some chronic pain is caused by a non-life-threatening, acute event, while other pain is attached to a terminal illness. Chronic pain can alter a person’s lifestyle, functional ability, and sometimes even personality. 

According to the NIH, there are three groups of patients who have a need for palliative care, “those who have a palliative period of advancing progressive disease; those who have a stable or no disease, relatively few symptoms but then deteriorate or die suddenly; and those who suffer from chronic disease, where the disease is not clearly progressing, but who might have periods of progression and symptoms where they would benefit from palliative care and then periods of remission.” 

Hospice vs Palliative Care

Hospice care is for patients who are no longer receiving curative treatments. Hospice is chosen when treatments are no longer working or that the negative treatment experience outweighs the benefit of prolonging life with the treatments. 

Removing treatment often improves the quality of life, which is the goal. On the other hand, palliative care does not require people to forego curative treatment if they are suffering from a chronic, progressive, or advanced illness. 

Palliative care is simply pain management. It should be thought of as symptom control and is intended to ease any pain associated with a disease, medical condition, or illness. Ideally, a person could receive palliative care from diagnosis until death regardless of how long that period lasts. Hospice, however, is normally intended for the last six months of a person’s life. 

Types of Pain Management

Since pain is highly subjective, treatment changes from person to person. In addition to physical pain, there is also the potential for psychological, spiritual, and social pain, which palliative care attempts to address. There are different ways in which palliative care teams attempt to alleviate pain:

Pharmacological methods

The World Health Organization created what is called a pain ladder as a guideline for pain management. It defines how doctors should manage pain and is useful for patients to know as well. 

Pain management should begin with nonopioid medications like acetaminophen, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and gradually progress towards more potent non-painkiller methods like nerve blocks or epidurals. 

Sometimes, anti-depressants and muscle relaxers can be useful before treating with opioids. Only after all these options are exhausted should opioids be used due to the high risk of addiction. Of course, for people with terminal illnesses or at the end stage of a disease, immediate opioid therapy is usually required, and the risk of addiction is not as important. 

Opioids works because they attach to receptors found in the brain and nervous system, reducing the incoming signals of pain. Initially found naturally in the poppy plant, most opioids are synthetically produced and, as such, are much stronger than their naturally occurring counterpart. The issue with long term use not only lies with addiction, but the body eventually grows a tolerance, and stronger medications must be used as treatment progresses. 

Non-pharmacological methods

Depending on where the pain originates from and how debilitating the disease has become, sometimes no medication is needed. Non-pharmacological pain management methods include physical therapy, yoga, mind-body practices like Tai Chi, behavioral therapy, and meditation. 

With most conditions, exercise is recommended as a first step in managing pain. A few interesting types of non-pharmacological treatments are as follows:

Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENs)

Studies have shown that TENs are not useful for all pain, specifically cancer pain, but have yielded positive results in some patients. The theory behind TENs is that the electric current stimulated nerves, which in turn block pain signals from reaching the brain. This doesn’t get rid of the pain but changes how the body reacts to the pain. Likewise, the electric stimulation also produces endorphins that are the body’s natural painkiller. 

Acupuncture

Acupuncture has been practiced for thousands of years, but it hasn’t been until the 1970s that it gained popularity in Western culture. Similar to above, acupuncture’s success depends on the type of pain a person is experiencing. Practitioners believe that acupuncture activates the body’s self-healing mechanisms, thus reducing pain for the long term with regular acupuncture sessions. It is not a magical cure-all, but it can be very beneficial with other types of pain management strategies. 

Music Therapy

Music therapy has gained popularity for chronic pain management in recent years. It provides stimulation that evokes an overall mood change and reduces the amount of pain a person perceives. It helps with relaxation, rhythmic breathing, and meditation as well. 

When Is Palliative Care Appropriate?

For many people, it can be hard to judge if palliative care is right for their situation. Generally, with a progressive illness, such as terminal cancer, it’s usually clear when it is time to discontinue curative treatment and focus mainly on comfort. The person’s condition would have declined for some time and their ability to function independently would be a major challenge. 

However, with a chronic condition or for someone with many medical conditions but no terminal diagnosis, it can be harder to decide when to use palliative care. For chronic conditions, setbacks and complications can happen throughout but are frequently treated and reversed– leading people to believe they do not need palliative care. 

Even with improvements and reversals, though, palliative care can still be a part of their complete care, improving quality of life.

Max Gottlieb is the content manager for Senior Planning. Senior Planning provides free assistance to seniors and the disabled, specializing in long-term care.

About the Author

Max Gottlieb is the content manager for Senior Planning. Senior Planning provides free assistance to seniors and the disabled, specializing in long-term care.

Editor's Note

The need for long-term health care is increasing as more Americans get older. Longevity often brings changes in a person's health, body, and mind. These changes will usually require some type of long-term care service. 

With this aging, the need for hospice and palliative care has increased. For those who own Long-Term Care Insurance, some of this care can be paid for by the policy. There are occasions when people require more hospice care than their health insurance, or Medicarewill provide. 

Most of the long-term care costs are not paid for by traditional health insurance policies, including government plans like Medicare. Without Long-Term Care Insurance, American families must face the choice of having family members as caregivers or draining assets to pay for care. Neither of those choices are ideal solutions.

Resources for LTC Planning

The cost of long-term care services can easily change a family's lifestyle and adversely impact income, assets, and legacy. You can find the current and future cost of care where you live by using the LTC NEWS Cost of Care Calculator

The time to obtain LTC Insurance coverage is before retirement, ideally in your 40s or 50s, when you still enjoy good health and can take advantage of low premiums and health discounts. 

There are many options and several types of available plans. You can easily navigate the choices available by seeking the help of an experienced and trusted Long-Term Care Insurance specialist. Find a specialist by clicking here.

There are other tools and resources available to help you plan. Find these resources by clicking here.

Contribute Your Expertise on LTC NEWS

You can write a story or an ongoing column to share with the world on LTC NEWS. Be sure your article fits the LTC NEWS target audience of adults 40-70.

Topics can include stories on:

  • Aging
  • Caregiving
  • Health
  • Long-Term Care
  • Retirement Planning

There are numerous other related topics, as well. You can even promote yourself, your business, and your website or blog. It must have editorial content exclusive for LTC NEWS and cannot be just an advertisement. It can include links to other sites, and you can share the article link once published on your website or social media.

Please send us your idea by contacting LTC NEWS at newsroom@ltcnews.com or click here.

Advertising and Marketing Opportunities on LTC NEWS

LTC NEWS offers many marketing and advertising opportunities, including sponsored content and sponsorship of the website's most popular areas. These marketing opportunities are ideal for businesses, including, but not limited to:

  • adult day care centers  
  • assisted living facilities  
  • financial advisors  
  • home health agencies  
  • lawyers  
  • memory care facilities  
  • nursing homes  
  • real estate professionals  
  • rehab facilities  
  • senior living centers  

If your business wants to reach people planning for their retirement and long-term care options or the decision-makers who are researching care options for a parent or loved one, LTC NEWS is a great option.

You can also purchase sponsored content – a long-form article to express your insight experience and services.

Contact the advertising department by clicking here

LTC News Contributor Max Gottlieb
Max Gottlieb

Contributor Since
November 19th, 2020

Content manager for Senior Planning.

About the Author

Content manager for Senior Planning.

Work With a Long-Term Care Specialist
Work With a Trusted Long-Term Care Insurance Specialist
  • Has substantial experience in Long-Term Care Insurance
  • A Strong understanding in underwriting, policy design, and claims experience.
  • Represents all or most of all the leading insurance companies.
Find a Trusted Specialist
Table of Contents
Connect With a Long-Term Care Specialist

Find Affordable Insurance and the Right Coverage.

LTC News Trusted & Verified
Learn More
Search Results
17 results found for "patient care"