What to Know About Palliative Care in 2021 | Does Medicare Cover Palliative Care
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What to know about palliative care in 2021

Palliative care remains a misunderstood option for patients who are sick but not dying. Palliative care is specialized medical care focused on providing relief from the symptoms and stress of a serious illness.

What is the difference between palliative care and hospice care?

Confusion exists between palliative care and hospice care; they are not the same thing. Think of them like this: All hospice care is also palliative care, but not all palliative care is hospice care. Palliative care often begins as early as the time of diagnosis, and occurs at the same time as treatment. Hospice care begins when treatment is no longer focused on a cure and instead on comfort as the disease progresses. 

Both palliative care and hospice care ease physical symptoms. The goal of both hospice care and palliative care is to help improve a patient’s quality of life.

The difference is that hospice is for the weeks and months at the end of life and palliative care provides pain and stress relief to patients with a serious health problem. 

A palliative care team has an emotional, spiritual, and whole person approach. They pay attention to what is meaningful to a patient and their family and they set goals of care early in the illness. A palliative care team can’t exist without funding for the social workers, chaplains and primary care doctors who have those conversations with patients.

The conversation about palliative care is growing partly because of the ongoing pandemic. All of a sudden, many people  unexpectedly found themselves at an end-of-life stage. Many patients with a variety of illnesses and diseases – some fatal, some treatable – did not want to go to the hospital for treatment, or weren’t able to go.

This led home care to become a growing option in 2020, a trend that continues into 2021. While there are several hospitals and wellness organizations in New Hampshire and Vermont that offer palliative care services, it’s not widespread.

The Medicare Advantage option

Many people ask, does Medicare cover palliative care? Traditional Medicare has a hospice care benefit but not a palliative care one. Medicare Advantage is a private-sector health insurance option that includes Medicare benefits, though it’s not yet widely known to the general public. Medicare Advantage will cover people at any stage and any point in their illness. Medicare Advantage may also cover incentives that Medicare may not, such as eye exams and hearing aids.

Palliative Care Reduces Unwanted Hospitalization

Multiple studies show palliative care lowers the need for hospitalizations, including readmissions, and those who do require hospitalization have shorter stays when palliative care is part of healthcare.

Heart disease, cancer and diabetes cause the majority of deaths and disability in the United States, and are the leading reason for the $3.3 trillion spent annually  on healthcare, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

A study by Florida TaxWatch claims palliative care could reduce societal healthcare costs by $103 billion over the next 20 years. Additionally, the study says palliative care reduces hospital costs with fewer 911 calls, emergency department visits and urgent hospitalizations. 

Why isn’t palliative care widely known?

Often, the palliative care discussion doesn’t happen between a primary care professional and a patient because it isn’t brought up. Doctors don’t have the time for longer conversations unrelated to the urgent medical matter that led to the visit.

While there are more palliative care teams in hospitals today than ever before, many of them don’t have dedicated staff. Instead, they are  doctors and nurse practitioners that have a long list of responsibilities. Some organizations have access to a chaplain and social worker; others do not. Organizations nationwide offer grants and funding for palliative programs. 

Education about palliative care options should happen before you or someone in your family is facing a medical crisis. The best way to continue the growth of palliative care is to learn more about it and talk about it with loved ones. Here are some resources:

The post answers the questions:

What is the palliative care definition

What is the difference between palliative care and hospice care

What is the palliative care definition

Palliative care is specialized medical care focused on providing relief from the symptoms and stress of a serious illness.

What is the difference between palliative care and hospice care

Both palliative care and hospice care ease physical symptoms. The goal of both hospice care and palliative care is to help improve a patient’s quality of life. The difference is that hospice is for the weeks and months at the end of life and palliative care provides pain and stress relief to patients with a serious health problem.

Preplanning your final arrangements ensures that your family understands your final wishes and alleviates a great deal of stress.

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