When children facing serious illnesses are thrust into a new world of doctors, appointments, and medical services it can often feel very intimidating. For their families, who often manage their care, this can be an overwhelming and confusing responsibility that requires education and support. One of the many important decisions that must be made is whether your child should be enrolled in palliative or hospice care as they deal with their illness. While these terms are often used interchangeably and are somewhat similar, they represent different care strategies that should be used for specific purposes and stages in a child’s journey. The following guide can help families determine whether palliative care or hospice care is best for their child and when to consider starting.
What is Pediatric Palliative Care?
Palliative care is designed to help people with serious illnesses feel as comfortable as possible by preventing or treating symptoms and side effects of various medical treatments. It can also be used to support emotional, social and spiritual concerns related to the illness. These methods can improve the quality of the child’s life as they receive curative treatment for their illness. Palliative care can be provided both in the out-patient hospital setting and in the child’s home and can include appointments to visit doctors, therapists and other medical professionals outside of these locations. Families should consider enrolling in palliative care if they feel their child would benefit from additional support and comfort at any point during their illness.
What is Pediatric Hospice Care?
Hospice care is designed to control pain and other symptoms of an illness when a patient has nine months or less to live. It is provided by a team of health care professionals and volunteers who visit the child’s home, hospice center or hospital to provide care. Like palliative care, hospice care typically includes services designed to address a child’s physical, spiritual and emotional needs. Family members can receive mental and spiritual counseling through hospice care as their loved one receives support as well. You may want to begin hospice care if doctors determine that there is no cure for your child’s illness and want to receive additional in-home support during the final stages of their life.
Which Services is Right for Your Family?
Palliative and hospice care both have the same goal: to make a child as comfortable as possible through physical, mental, spiritual and social support methods. Both are provided by an experienced care team of medical professionals and volunteers. However, the context in which each is provided differs, and families should understand the difference to ensure that their expectations are met and they receive the care that aligns with their child’s needs.
Palliative care and hospice care are often provided in conjunction with curative medical treatment. Because these treatments can often have unpleasant side effects, palliative care can offer some relief. It can begin right after diagnosis, when mental health services can be helpful, and continue up to the point that the child begins feeling better or substantially worse.
Medical coverage for both services also varies. Depending on your health insurance plan, various palliative and hospice care services may or may not be covered, and it is therefore important to review your policy to determine your coverage. Palliative care will generally be covered for a specified period of time, while hospice care is generally covered as long as necessary, assuming the child’s condition does not improve. Medicaid covers all hospice care charges under these parameters.
Securing Palliative and Hospice Care Services
Both palliative and hospice care provide children and their families with much needed support and comfort, though they should be used in the appropriate instances to ensure the highest quality of care. If you are unsure of which is best for your family, speak to KidsCare of the Rockies for more information about determining the best way to address your child’s needs.
KidsCare of the Rockies provides comprehensive and customized palliative and hospice care plans for children and their families coping with a limiting illnesses. Your child will be supported by a team of medical professionals, including therapists, doctors, nurses and child life specialists in addition to volunteers to help them cope with their illness in the best way possible.