Palliative Care is Catching On
I have to admit, until recently I equated palliative care with end-of-life hospice. Lately, though, things seem to be changing. Yes, hospice is a type of palliative care. But what is growing is palliative care as a medical specialty for patients who are not necessarily terminally ill. The reason I got curious about this is that I do volunteer work for Homeland Hospice--and a few months ago I received a notice that Homeland had opened a palliative care department. So, if palliative care is hospice, then what is this new department? So I investigated.
It turns out that the types of comfort care that have been done in hospice are now being offered to patients who aren't at the end of life. And that type of pain relief/comfort care/family support is growing as a medical specialty. The National Institute of Health defines palliative care as specialized medical care for people living with a serious illness, such as cancer or heart failure. Patients in palliative care may receive medical care for their symptoms, or palliative care, along with treatment intended to cure their serious illness. Palliative care is meant to enhance a person's current care by focusing on the quality of life for them and their family.
The National Institute of Health Web page further states that Palliative care can be helpful at any stage of illness and is best provided soon after a person is diagnosed.
In addition to improving quality of life and helping with symptoms, palliative care can help patients understand their choices for medical treatment.
So all of that sounds like a good thing. The one drawback is that insurance companies need to decide if they are going to treat it like other medical specialties and pay for it. I would guess that will be a mixed bag. Hospice, on the other hand, is fully covered by Medicare. Here is a nice graphic that I found to illustrate the difference.