Patient Referral

Does palliative care mean a person is dying?

palliative care dying

When hearing that someone is receiving palliative care, the first question people often ask themselves is  “does palliative care mean a person is dying?

For many years people have spoken about hospice care and palliative care as though the two terms are synonymous. However, palliative care is different than hospice. All hospice care is palliative care, but all palliative care is not hospice.

Let’s take a look at what the two terms mean.

What does palliative care mean?

The World Health Organization defines palliative care as “an approach that improves the quality of life of patients and their families facing the problems associated with life-threatening illness, through the prevention and relief of suffering by means of early identification and impeccable assessment and treatment of pain and other problems, physical, psychosocial and spiritual.

That’s the long way of saying that the meaning of palliative care is that it provides relief from pain and other symptoms of serious illness – at any stage of that illness. Hospice care, on the other hand, is only provided to individuals who have been diagnosed with six months or less to live.

When should someone be offered palliative care?

Palliative care provides an extra layer of support and care for patients diagnosed with a serious, long-term or life-threatening illness. Starting palliative care can start following this diagnosis. Patients receiving palliative care can continue to pursue aggressive, curative treatment. In fact, palliative care is often used to treat side effects from curative treatments like chemotherapy or radiation.

In addition to cancer patients, palliative care is an option for a wide variety of serious illnesses including HIV or AIDS, COPD, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, Systemic Lupus, MS, diabetes and heart disease.

Billed through insurance or Medicare Part B like a doctor’s visit, palliative care team members meet with patients in their home or another place of their choice to treat symptoms and coordinate care.

does palliative care mean a person is dying

When does palliative care become hospice care? 

Does palliative care mean dying?  It can. When a patient diagnosed with six months or less to live elects to discontinue curative treatment, they become eligible for hospice care.

While hospice care still focuses on pain and symptom relief, it also includes the support of aides, chaplains, volunteers, and bereavement specialists in addition to nurses and social workers. All of these disciplines, as well as medication and medical supplies related to patient’s terminal illness, are fully covered by insurance, Medicare and Medicaid.

Patients may receive hospice care in their family home, assisted living facilities, nursing homes or wherever they reside.

Continuing to learn the difference between hospice and palliative care. 

If you or someone you care for has been diagnosed with a serious, life-limiting illness, and you are unsure whether hospice or palliative care is appropriate, please call us at 1-888-564-3405 to discuss their current condition. We can schedule a same-day, in-person consultation to determine the right level of care for the patient’s current needs.


Additional Resources:

What is Palliative Care?

When is it Time for Hospice?

Scores and Scales: Understand the Balance of Hospice Eligibility

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Copyright © 2017 Crossroads Hospice & Palliative Care. All rights reserved.


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