Choosing Between Hospice Care & Palliative Care – An In Depth Look at Your Options

Recently I wrote an article for family members of patients who could benefit from hospice care and/or palliative care, in which I discussed the factors that physicians must consider in referring hospice or palliative care options to their patients. In this article, I will explore the topic in greater depth, discussing the similarities as well as the differences between the two primary options: hospital-based palliative care and traditional hospice-based palliative care.

Hospital-Based Palliative Care Hospital-based palliative care comes into play following a patient’s hospital admission, and prior to discharge. For example, if the physician orders chemotherapy, it could be administered in the hospital-but not by the hospice-as chemotherapy is considered a therapy (and precludes hospice admission). It is important to remember that hospitals are acute facilities that strive to restore patients to optimum function. Very simply, this means that they focus on therapeutic, rehabilitative measures.

When that is not a viable option due to a patient’s terminal or life-limiting disease, the hospital-based palliative care team can assist the physician in structuring a plan of care that strives to maximize quality of life while managing pain and symptoms. In this situation, the palliative care team might suggest an early hospice referral, as the patient would be leaving the hospital setting. Generally, while the patient’s doctor and the hospital-based palliative care team make the referral, the patient and family also participate in the decision, so that the outcome best benefits and supports the patient’s desires.

The physician must be confident the hospital-based palliative care team incorporates holistic care at its very base, including ensuring the patient’s physical comfort, providing emotional and psychological support, and supporting shared decision-making. In addition, the patient’s physicians should also be confident that the hospital-based palliative care team coordinates the care across different care settings and involves the patient and family as appropriate. A candid prognostic dialogue is paramount, as communication bridges the gap between the patient’s needs and the physician’s expertise.

What to Expect from Hospital-Based Palliative Care

The physician should expect the following from the hospital-based palliative care team:

Evidence-based symptom palliation and psychological support

Shared decision-making that supports both the patient and the family or caregiver

Dignity and respect regarding the patient’s cultural values

Practical, financial and legal assistance for patients and families

Coordination of care across the health care setting that helps patients move from one setting to another (e.g., from hospital to home) in a seamless fashion

The hospital-based palliative care team can work closely with the local hospice agency once patients have completed all therapies and have a prognosis of six months or less. I have found that when working with physicians, patients and families who are considering hospice care in the last months, everyone appreciates a coordinated health care approach, which hospice in los angeles  helps guide the patient to navigate the system, providing appropriate care at each stage. A hospice nurse on the hospital-based palliative team can advise as to when the patient would benefit more from hospice services, and advocate for the patient and his or her family regarding those services.

Hospice-Based Palliative Care

Patients who are not hospitalized or are currently undergoing therapy can still access the expertise of the hospice nurse regarding pain and system management. Many hospices provide limited support to patients who are not yet eligible for hospice care or are not emotionally ready for hospice. These are non-reimbursed services that hospices provide as community outreach. Medicare stipulates all curative measures must be exhausted, and all therapies completed, before patients access hospice care benefits. So an early hospice referral from the hospital-based palliative team for these services can establish, and foster, a caring relationship with the case manager and the patient before any hospice care is actually needed. Establishing this relationship and making an early hospice referral helps alleviate fears on the part of the patient and family, and allows for a rapport to develop should the patient access hospice services at a later date.

 

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