When dealing with a terminal illness, it can be hard to know what types of care you and your family are most comfortable with. You may want to learn more about the differences between outpatient hospice care and inpatient hospice care so that you can make the best decision regarding your loved one’s future health plans. In this article, we’ll explain how each type of hospice care works, along with its pros and cons, so that you can weigh your options accordingly.
What is Hospice Care?
As stated above, hospice care is a form of medical care given to patients who are expected to live six months or less. This type of care is offered both in hospitals and at home. It provides comfort instead of trying to cure a disease. The most important part of hospice care is that it focuses on improving quality of life rather than increasing quantity of life. These services will be discussed more below.
Four Levels of Hospice Care
Each level of hospice care offers different levels of care, from a few hours per week to around-the-clock medical supervision. At each level, a team of medical professionals, including doctors, nurses, social workers, and therapists, coordinate with your family caregivers. Learn about each level’s benefits and drawbacks to help decide which is suitable for you or your loved one.
The four levels of hospice care are routine home care, inpatient care, respite care, and continuous care. Routine home care includes daily visits from a nurse or social worker who supports patients and their caregivers and assists with everyday tasks like bathing or grooming.
Inpatient care is similar to routine home care, except that patients are cared for in a hospital setting rather than at home. They’re monitored by medical professionals around-the-clock and have access to hospital equipment like a dialysis machine or ventilator.
Respite care is short-term care that relieves family caregivers of their duties for a short time. Depending on your needs, respite care can be provided in a hospital, nursing home, or even your own home.
Continuous care is similar to routine home care, except that patients are monitored around the clock by medical professionals who offer 24/7 assistance. In addition, some hospices also provide complementary treatments like acupuncture or massage therapy; these aren’t strictly part of any level of hospice care but can be provided in conjunction with other levels as needed. One key advantage of hospice care is that it allows you or your loved one to remain at home, surrounded by friends and family, for as long as possible.
Inpatient Hospice vs. Home Hospice
The key difference is that inpatient hospice care is provided in a licensed medical facility. While your loved one stays there, you are free to return home to take care of other family responsibilities. The medical professionals at an inpatient hospice will provide therapy, nutritional counseling, pain management, and other services required by your loved one. Home hospice care means you stay with your loved one in their home throughout their end-of-life journey.
Your loved one will receive pain management, counseling, and other services required to ease their suffering. Like inpatient hospice care, licensed medical professionals provide home hospice care who ensure your loved one receives medical attention from start to finish. Whether you prefer inpatient or home hospice depends on your needs at that time.
Long-Term Hospice Care
The focus is on comfort. The main goal of long-term hospice care is to keep you as comfortable as possible while you’re still able to live at home with your family. A doctor decides if you qualify for outpatient hospice care and how often you need treatment.
If you qualify for long-term hospice care, you can expect visits from nurses, aides, or social workers to help with your pain, discomfort, or other physical symptoms. They’ll also check in on your emotional and mental wellbeing—which are just as important for staying comfortable during terminal stages of life.
You may also receive physical, occupational, or speech therapy to help you manage your symptoms. And if your mental health declines as a result of being in hospice care, you’ll be connected with services like counseling and psychiatry to help keep you as comfortable as possible. If needed, hospice patients can also access emergency care that goes beyond treating their physical symptoms—like a patient who’s ready to be discharged but has nowhere else to go.
Hospice Care in a Hospital Setting
While there is some debate about whether outpatient or inpatient hospice care is best, some guidelines will help you make an informed decision. For example, when a family finds out that a loved one has only days left to live, they want to spend every possible moment with them. However, hospitals aren’t always designed for long-term stays.
If your loved one is receiving palliative care in a hospital, outpatient hospice care might be best. Alternatively, if you or your loved one feels ready to return home after a period of hospice care, then inpatient hospice care might be best. Whatever decision you make, do so with an open mind so that your last few days with your loved ones are spent focusing on them.
The decision isn’t an easy one, but it is a personal one that will affect you, your loved one, and your family. Spend some time thinking about what’s most important to you when making your decision.
A patient who wishes to be palliative can request hospice care through an outpatient program. This allows patients to remain in their homes while receiving hospice care, with no stay required at a hospital or clinic. An outpatient program may be an excellent option for patients who are frail or do not wish to travel back and forth from a hospital daily.
If you wonder whether outpatient care is a better fit for your loved one, speak with your hospice team about your concerns. They can assist you in determining if outpatient care is appropriate for your needs. If it isn’t, they can direct you to an inpatient hospice facility that meets your particular situation.