A nurse supportively holds the hand of a patient.

Understanding Hospice and Palliative Care

The words spoken by my mother that she had been diagnosed with lung cancer hit differently. It was such a back and forth with her not feeling well and the extensive testing and follow-up that led to those words no one wished to hear.

When the moment comes, you have no idea what to anticipate. The word that was spoken by one of her doctors was “hospice”. We’ve heard the word but sometimes it doesn’t resonate with what the implications mean until faced with the what and how.

Comparing hospice and palliative care

Though both terms may seem similar there are slight differences. In the case of my family’s journey, we were hit with the only option of hospice. I knew with little knowledge that hospice care did not seem like a good thing and was very permanent.

So, what is it? Hospice care is part of an ominous conversation of caring for a patient who is at the end of life and providing the comfort and care needed. The best way to explain this is rather treating cancer requires consistent care to control and combat the disease and in turn, the wellness of care for the patient is stressed.

Hospice provides the needed comfort while managing treatment or when treatment is no longer on the table. Palliative care provides specialized medical care based on the condition; palliative care helps provide some form of relief upon diagnosis and during treatment. The possibility of leaving the care facility and recovering is a possibility.

The emotional impact of declining health and end-of-life decisions

Whether these terms are used anywhere in the conversation upon declining health, well, it’s a scary situation. The decisions involved may seem very abrupt and it usually is.

In some cases, the patient may be able to decide on their own in how they wish to proceed and continue with care in comfort; however, in some cases, the family may need to step in and make the decisions.

I can tell you when my mother’s doctor mentioned hospice it was a huge cloud of understanding how dire the situation was. The thought of walking in someplace and not going home, or being cared for in a way to soften the inevitable blow is horrifying for everyone involved.

Five things that can help you decide on the type of care

Again, the conversation can be rather quick but if it leads to the definitive option of hospice care, here are the top five things to be aware of when making that decision:

Keeping doctors: In most cases it is possible to continue care with your present physician (specialist). It’s also a good thing that everyone is in the know of what is happening.

Home care: Though it is assumed hospice means a functioning facility; however, care can also be within the comfort of your home.

Age Limit: No set age at hospice can be considered - anyone serving a long illness with little recourse can access care.

Medically adept: Tools used for proper care will be found in these facilities.

Family support: The family can be supported by trained hospice staff to work together in assisting with care for a loved one.

The time to fight is now, with integrity, grace, hope, and a smile…when you feel like it

By providing your email address, you are agreeing to our privacy policy.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The LungCancer.net team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

Join the conversation

Please read our rules before commenting.