End-of-life care options like hospice and palliative care are often associated with nursing homes or specialty houses and hospitals. Contrary to this common thought, many assisted living communities partner with these care services as the high population of seniors continue to grow older and need a continuum of care.
These types of care are difficult to talk about because they are administered to loved ones who are struggling with serious illness or are near the end of life. However, assisted living communities are focused on providing the best care for residents, including at the end of life and will often have these care solutions available. Looking into the difference between palliative care and hospice care in assisted living communities can help you know what to do when making difficult decisions for family members.
What is palliative care?
Palliative care is the general term for any type of care that focuses on relieving pain and managing symptoms of serious illness, including mental and emotional pain and symptoms. Palliative care is used for people who suffer from illnesses like:
- Heart and cardiac diseases
- Parkinson’s Disease
- Kidney, liver, or lung diseases
Palliative care teams work across multiple disciplines to provide emotional, mental, and medical support for patients. The biggest difference between general palliative care and the more specific hospice care is that palliative care doesn’t necessarily mean the patient is no longer receiving treatment for their condition. Palliative care works alongside medical treatment plans to relieve symptoms while still receiving treatment.
When does your loved one need it?
If your loved one is suffering from serious diseases or symptoms that cause them daily pain, but doesn’t necessarily have a prognosis of when they will reach end-of-life, then palliative care might be a good option to consider.
To put it plainly, if your loved one is still seeking treatment and hoping to find a cure or way of managing their illness for a longer term than 6 months, then palliative care can help them manage their symptoms during that process.
Palliative Care in Assisted Living Communities
There aren’t palliative care facilities like hospice hospitals and homes, so if you decide on utilizing palliative care for a family member then the palliative care team will come to your loved one’s current home. Many assisted living communities are partnered with palliative care organizations to help make the entire situation easier on you and your loved one.
Assisted living communities will sometimes have a part-time or full-time palliative care team on staff to provide care services to residents as needed, without having to work with or schedule with a separate organization.
What is hospice care?
The most common definition for hospice care is a care service that works to manage pain and serious health issues in patients who have been given a diagnosis of 6 or less months to live. Hospice care is a subset of palliative care, so it will focus on helping the individual rather than treating the disease, but is specifically for end-of-life rather than general symptom management.
Focusing on pain reduction, managing existing symptoms, and providing the highest quality of life possible for patients, hospice care is a common option for people who are nearing the end of life. Hospice care is only used once a 6-month diagnosis has been reached and aggressive treatment options have stopped.
When does your loved one need it?
Deciding when hospice care is needed is an incredibly hard decision for family members because it involved admitting your loved one is near the end of life and that there isn’t going to be a continued plan for treatment of their illness going forward.
The important thing for family members to keep in mind is to focus on providing the highest quality of life possible for loved ones. Hospice care teams are dedicated to ensuring that your loved one is getting the most out of end-of-life care.
Learn more about processing grief when a loved one moves into hospice care.
Hospice care is different from palliative care, which can be administered alongside other treatment options as a pain and emotional management solution while still seeking treatment. Hospice care is only administered after stopping treatment methods and only once approximately 6 months until end-of-life prognosis is given.
It is important to note that hospice care does not have to be a permanent or final care solution. At any point during hospice care you can choose to remove your loved one from the hospice care plan and have them begin treatment again or try a different kind of care.
Hospice Care in Assisted Living Communities
Hospice care also differs from palliative care because hospice often has its own treatment centers called hospice houses or hospitals. These specialized treatment centers are the most common way that hospice care is administered, with patients coming to stay in these centers for end-of-life care, but it isn’t the only way hospice care is given.
If the family decides it is best for their loved one to stay at home and not move to a different location for end-of-life treatment, then hospice workers can come and help with treatment in other places than a dedicated hospice care center. With a rising population of aging seniors that need hospice care, many assisted living communities have strong partnerships with local hospice organizations to provide the best of care for residents in their community.
Hospice and palliative care isn’t a pleasant topic to think about, but it often becomes necessary to discuss as our loved ones age. Remembering to keep the quality of life of our family members first and knowing what the differences between the two types of care can help make end-of-life decisions easier for everyone.