Discerning End of Life, Palliative, and Hospice Care

Author: Debbie Humphrey

One of the most difficult discussions a family can have is concerning end-of-life care options for a terminally ill loved one. No one likes talking about death, but it is inevitable for all of us. What’s most important is that we set aside the angst and focus on making sure your loved one is comfortable and properly cared for in their final days and hours.

I’ve had to have these end-of-life care conversations on several occasions. It’s definitely not easy, but it’s certainly necessary for everyone’s peace of mind. The challenge can be discerning what kind of care is best: end-of-life, palliative, or hospice care.

Here, I review the basics of each type of care so you can make informed decisions when the time comes.

End-of-Life Care

“End-of-life care is intended for people who are believed to be in their final year of life. However, this time frame can be difficult to predict. Some people may only receive end-of-life care in the final weeks or days of their lives,” explains medical author, Dr Sruthi M., MBBS, at MedicineNet.

End-of-life care is intended to make the patient comfortable during the time they have left. It is about controlling physical symptoms and providing emotional support for the patient, their family, and friends.

Additionally, end-of-life care may include assistance with any final wishes and legal documentation, such as a will or Power of Attorney.

End-of-life care is:

  • Provided when the person is in the last stage of any critical illness
  • Provided with active curative medical treatment for the illness
  • Given as supportive treatment to ease the person from physical symptoms and provide emotional and spiritual support
  • Provided by family, friends, close associates, or caregivers who maintain communication with the person’s medical care team
  • Life expectancy is not a factor

Palliative Care

The National Institute on Aging says, “Palliative care is 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 quality of life for them and their family.”

Palliative care is:

  • Helpful to any senior at any stage of illness.
  • Initiated to improve quality of life and symptoms for seniors or any older person experiencing general discomfort or disability.
  • Includes a team of professionals to provide medical, social, emotional, and practical support, like specialist doctors, nurses, social workers, nutritionists, professional caregivers, and chaplains.
  • Provided in hospitals, skilled nursing facilities, outpatient palliative care clinics, specialized clinics, or the patient’s home.

Hospice Care

“In general, hospice care should be used when a person’s life expectancy is projected to be six months or less if the illness runs its course. According to studies, hospice care is frequently delayed. Sometimes a doctor, patient, or family member will object to hospice care because they believe it implies giving up or that there is no hope. It is essential to understand that you can quit hospice and begin active medical therapy at any time. However, the hope that hospice provides is for quality of life, making the most of each day while in the final stages of advanced disease,” says Dr. Sruthi M.

Hospice Care is:

  • Provided to people who are in later stages of an incurable illness or nearing the end of their life, such as some people with advanced or metastatic cancer, Alzheimer’s, or dementia.
  • Provided when no active or curative treatment is available for a critical illness.
  • Treating symptoms and negative effects for the patient’s utmost comfort.
  • Organized patient care with communication with the medical care team.
  • Provided when life expectancy is six months or less.

I hope you find this information insightful, and that it helps you understand the differences and similarities between end-of-life, palliative, and hospice care.

I welcome the opportunity to sit down for a FREE consultation and assessment of needs should a compassionate caregiver be recommended to help you or a terminally ill loved one. During this assessment, I will answer all of your questions and provide whatever support I can for you and your family during this difficult time.

We, at Home Helpers® Clearwater, are honored to have received the Home Care Pulse – Best of Home Care® Provider of Choice Award 2016-2022 and the Best of Home Care® Employer of Choice Award 2022. We proudly serve male and female seniors in Clearwater, Dunedin, Palm Harbor, Safety Harbor, Tarpon Springs, Holiday, New Port Richey, Trinity, Port Richey, Hudson, and surrounding areas. Home Helpers®…we are Making Life Easier℠ 727.942.2539



National Institute on Aging



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