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Hospice vs. Home Health Care: What's the Difference?

a caregiver comforts their elderly client

When a loved one falls ill or has a serious injury and needs care beyond the hospital, it’s hard to know where to turn and what to do. Many people are not aware of the options for in-home nursing care for elderly spouses, parents, or grandparents. It’s not something that we think about until we must and sadly end up poorly informed on the available options. For those that have some idea of what’s out there, confusion can muddle things as they don’t know the difference between types of care. Home health care and hospice are types of in-home care, but they differ on the level, type, and timing of the care. Here we discuss the two, and answer the questions of hospice vs. home health care; what’s the difference?

Home Health Care

Home health care is exactly what it sounds like—health care in the home, administered by a medical professional. This kind of care is for people that have sustained a serious injury, are post-surgery, or are can’t care for themselves for any reason. When homes become makeshift hospitals and treatment centers, nurses, licensed caregivers, and other medical professionals will come and assist with daily care and rehabilitation. The overall goal is to give the patient a clinical or hospital level of care when they need for intermittent nurse-level care. Various needs are met with home health care, such as wound dressing and care, physical therapy, speech-language pathology, occupational therapy, or anything else that they need between visits to a doctor’s office.

Hospice Care

Hospice care provides social, clinical, emotional, and spiritual care and support for patients and their family members near the end of life. Part of hospice care is providing palliative care designed to keep the patient as comfortable as possible during this time. The care providers help with a variety of interventions to manage and reduce pain and other symptoms. An essential part of hospice care is called respite care, and it helps the immediate family members. Respite care allows familial caregivers the chance to rest, rejuvenate, and leave the house to do other things on a planned or emergency basis. Caregivers will come and care for the patient so the family members can have a break, if even for only a few hours. Caring for a terminal family member is exhausting, both physically and mentally. Part of the care is bereavement counseling for the family members following the loss of the loved one. Hospice care allows a person to spend their final moments comfortable, at home, and surrounded by their loved ones while receiving quality care and emotional support.


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