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Healthy Living

Hospice and Palliative Care: What’s the Difference?

Apr 23 2019

Most people do not think of specialty care until they are faced with it head on. Hospice and palliative care is something that most do not want to discuss, much less plan for. The Mercy Health team is dedicated to patients facing a life-limiting illness, by managing their symptoms so that they live as comfortably as possible.

First, it’s important to understand hospice and palliative care, and to know the difference between the two:

  • Palliative care is a resource for anyone living with a serious or chronic illness and can be helpful at any stage of illness. It is best provided at the point of diagnosis. It can help patients understand their choices for medical treatment.
  • Hospice care can be provided in any setting, such as at home, in a nursing home, or at an inpatient facility, such as the Ray and Kay Eckstein Hospice Care Center at Mercy Health. Hospice is provided for a person with a terminal illness and is an approach to treatment and care. The patient understands that his or her illness is not responding to medical attempts to cure it or to slow the progress.

The Mercy Health team is here to be a support system to patients and to their families, at the same time addressing the patient’s physical, emotional and spiritual needs. However, it’s important for patients, or in some cases their families, to be proactive in all aspects of their healthcare, including planning for future hospice and palliative care.  Typically, Medicare and Medicaid have a hospice benefit, as do most private insurances.

Dr. James Long explains the types of patients that may need either care.

Dr. James Long, medical director of the Hospice and Palliative Medicine program at Mercy Health – Lourdes Hospital, has been active as a physician in the Lourdes Hospice program for more than 12 years.

“While hospice care is often called in at the end of a disease process, or when the patient decides to no longer explore curative treatments,” Dr. Long said, “that does not mean that the hospice patient is imminently dying.  The hospice team cares for those who are terminally ill, attending to physical, emotional and spiritual needs-keeping that patient comfortable and improving quality of life.  Palliative care is a team approach to specialized medical care for those with life-limiting illnesses, focusing on providing relief from the symptoms, pain, physical and mental stress at any stage of the illness.”

Hospice patients may live for months or years on hospice care; receiving specialty one-on-one care in a home setting. At Mercy Health, we help patients with the resources they need. We listen, understand patient goals and walk that path with them maintaining comfort, dignity and wishes, no matter how long that may be.

For information on the hospice care available through Mercy Health, visit our Health Care Services page about hospice and palliative care.

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