Originally published by healthguide.org. View the original article here.
For many seriously ill patients, hospice and palliative care offers a more dignified and comfortable alternative to spending your final months in the impersonal environment of a hospital. Palliative medicine helps patients manage pain while hospice provides special care to improve quality of life for both the patient and their family. Seeking hospice and palliative care isn’t about giving up hope or hastening death, but rather a way to get the most appropriate care in the last phase of life.
Although death is a natural part of life, the thought of dying understandably still frightens many people. You may imagine pain and loneliness, spending your final days in the cold, sterile environment of a hospital far from family, friends and all that you know and love. However, hospice care represents a compassionate approach to end-of-life care, enhancing the quality of remaining life and enabling you to live as fully and as comfortably as possible.
Hospice is traditionally an option for people whose life expectancy is six months or less, and involves palliative care (pain and symptom relief) rather than ongoing curative measures, enabling you to live your last days to the fullest, with purpose, dignity, grace, and support. While some hospitals, nursing homes, and other health care facilities provide hospice care onsite, in most cases hospice is provided in the patient’s own home. This enables you to spend your final days in a familiar, comfortable environment, surrounded by your loved ones who can focus more fully on you with the support of hospice staff.
The term “palliative care” refers to any care that alleviates symptoms, even if there is hope of a cure by other means. It is an approach that focuses on the relief of pain, symptoms, and emotional stress brought on by serious illness. Your disease doesn’t have to be terminal for you to qualify for palliative care and, in the U.S., many palliative treatments are covered by Medicare. In some cases, palliative treatments may be used to alleviate the side effects of curative treatment, such as relieving the nausea associated with chemotherapy, which may help you tolerate more aggressive or longer-term treatment.