Palliative Care Not Being Received As Many Believe

Palliative care, which includes treatments meant to provide relief from symptoms and the stress of serious chronic illnesses, is being offered to patients more these days. Despite dramatic growth in the number of hospitals providing such care over the last decade, full palliative care services remain unavailable to most individuals. Several factors may explain why Palliative care is not more widely available.  It is a fairly new area in the field of medicine, only becoming a board certified specialty in 2006. Several studies suggest the number of specialists doesn’t meet the need, and there is confusion as to what exactly palliative care is.

 Many insurance plans (Medicare, Medicaid and commercial insurances) will cover some types of palliative care, like pain management. However, most do not to cover home nursing visits, social workers or chaplains, and 24 hour support is not covered. This is especially true if the insurance is a “fee for service” plan, where providers are paid for each treatment or service. If you are not terminally ill and ready to elect hospice, access to palliative care is limited.

 While palliative care can be provided at home, it’s most common in institutions like hospitals or skilled nursing homes where there is a palliative team on hand. Hospice care and palliative care are similar, as all hospice care is “palliative” in nature.  Palliative care focuses on administering “comfort” care, designed to manage symptoms and maintain comfort. Where palliative care programs and hospice care programs differ is in the care location, timing, payment, and eligibility for services. To be eligible for hospice services a person must be considered to have a terminal, or life-limiting illness, with a projected life expectancy of six months or less to live (if the disease takes its natural course).  For palliative care, a person can receive care at any stage of a serious chronic illness.

 For more information on palliative or hospice care, or to find out how hospice care can help you or a loved one dealing with a life-limiting illness, please visit our website or call us at 702-636-0200.