Choosing the right type of care

Published: Tuesday, October 31, 2023

What to know about hospice, palliative care, home health & long-term care

If you’re helping a parent with an illness, choosing the right type of care can be challenging at times. Learning about the options is a good place to begin.

These days, it’s incredibly common for middle-aged adults to be caring for at least one aging parent. In fact, a 2022 report from Pew Research Center reported that 54% of Americans in their 40s have an aging parent and are raising a child—making them part of the “sandwich generation.”

When you’re providing care for an older adult in your life, it’s totally normal to have many questions. That’s especially true when it comes to your loved one’s health. Even when he or she is feeling well, navigating healthcare can be hard.

If you have an aging parent who’s in need of care beyond the scope of regular primary care, you may be a bit befuddled by all the options. Keep reading for a look at some of the most common options and when they might be what your loved one needs.

When is hospice the right type of care?

Hospice is a specialized type of care designed for those in the end stages of life, which can be received in a hospital, a long-term care facility, or the home. It is typically provided for patients who have been given a life expectancy of six months or less.

When a person begins hospice care, he or she has decided to forgo further curative treatment and receive only care to relieve symptoms. Someone with cancer, for example, would no longer receive chemotherapy or radiation therapy and would instead receive therapies like pain management to manage symptoms.

Hospice is designed to ease the end-of-life transition for both patients and their families, while also improving quality of life. A hospice provider typically offers a full spectrum of services, including care to alleviate symptoms for the patient, as well as social, emotional, and spiritual support for the patient and his or her loved ones.

Hospice providers also help coordinate care, direct families to support groups and other resources, and can even facilitate bereavement support for families after the loss of a loved one.

When is in-home palliative care the right type of care?

Palliative care is often mentioned in conjunction with hospice, but the two aren’t the same. There are two key differences between palliative care and hospice care.

For one, palliative care services aren’t limited to those in the end stages of life. In-home palliative care is an option for patients of any age and stage of a serious, life-limiting medical condition.

The other difference is that patients receiving palliative care can continue to receive curative treatment along with treatment to ease symptoms and improve quality of life. Palliative care services are designed to relieve the symptoms of both the disease and the effects of facing the disease, such as stress and anxiety.

Like with hospice care, palliative care also provides supportive services for family members and other loved ones in addition to patients.

When is long-term care the right type of care?

While hospice and palliative care are designed for those who are facing the effects of a serious medical condition, older adults who aren’t dealing with an illness can benefit from long-term care.

Long-term care can be provided in a number of settings and by many different people. In fact, you might be surprised to learn that you’re providing long-term care if you’re caring for an aging loved one.

In the more formal sense, within the healthcare setting, long-term care often encompasses care provided in a nursing home or assisted living setting. This can include both medical treatment and observation, as well as assistance with activities of daily living, like bathing, eating, or dressing.

In some cases, patients require long-term care in a facility after an illness or injury, like a stroke or a knee replacement, but in others, older adults may simply need more assistance as they get older.

When is home health care the right type of care?

Home health care can be an alternative for receiving care for an illness or injury in a hospital or skilled nursing facility. Home health providers offer treatment and care within the comfort and familiarity of a patient’s home.

This type of care is usually given on a temporary basis, rather than long-term. Services are provided to treat an injury or illness, allowing a patient to fully recover and heal. In some cases, home health services may be used for a longer period of time if a patient is facing a chronic or serious illness that requires careful monitoring and regular treatments, like IV medications or nutritional therapy.

Home health care is often covered under insurance plans, including Medicare and Medicare supplement plans. To get started, a doctor’s referral is required.

Learn more

Northeast Georgia Health System offers a full spectrum of services to care for people at all ages and stages of illness.