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Q: What’s the difference in palliative care and hospice care?

Posted November 06, 2013 in Adel, Advice Column

A: Palliative care is specialized medical care for people with serious illnesses. It focuses on providing people with relief from the symptoms, pain and stress of a serious illness such as cancer, cardiac disease such as congestive heart disease (CHF), chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), kidney failure, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s — whatever the diagnosis.

Palliative care focuses on symptoms such as pain, shortness of breath, fatigue, constipation, nausea, loss of appetite, difficulty sleeping and depression. Medication is provided for symptom relief, usually no curative effect on the underlying disease and may be provided along with the curative treatment or to alleviate the adverse effects of the curative therapy such as management of nausea associated with chemotherapy.

Hospice care is the care given to terminally ill patients with life expectancy of six months or less. The goal of hospice care is to keep pain and suffering of a person with a terminal illness to a minimum and not to cure the illness. It can be provided in the person’s home or in skilled nursing facilities, hospice centers, hospitals or other long-term care facilities.

Both are provided by a team of medical professionals. While Medicare, Medicaid, private insurance plans, etc. may provide hospice coverage, Medicare or Medicaid does not cover palliative care costs. Some private insurance may cover palliative care. Be sure to ask your palliative care provider if services will be covered, and what, if any, costs you will be asked to pay.

Information provided by Pam Walker, administrator, Adel Acres, 1919  Greene St., Adel, 515-993-4511.

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