Hospice Services in America began with one small hospice in Connecticut back in 1974. Today, thousands of hospices exist in the nation, and nearly a million people ultimately seek out these services annually. Numerous people find the ideal solution to their medical plights through hospice and palliative care, and these two terms have literally redefined the choices one has when facing a critical illness. In the 70s, people were often told that the only place they could get help when ill was a hospital separated from their loved ones – hospice changed all of those misconceptions.

Now considered a healthcare revolution, hospice services allow those in need of care to have more choices concerning their healthcare, and pain and isolation are no longer necessarily part of the journey. The field of hospice has had a drastic impact concerning shaping the careers of those in the medical field, including CNAs, who can become certified in hospice and palliative care without taking additional coursework. Now that hospice is clearly here to stay, healthcare consumers and employers are constantly seeking out those with certification as a sign of clinical excellence within this unique field. Before you delve into this rewarding career, lets clear up one of the most commonly misunderstood notions within the field – the difference between hospice and palliative care.

Palliative Care

This type of care is quite similar to hospice care; however, unlike hospice services, palliative care can be implemented at any time during a life-threatening illness. Commonly, you will encounter cancer patients, heart patients, those with liver failure, or patients with any other serious illness that can negatively affect their quality of life. Palliative care is distinctly different from hospice services in the aspect that it does not preclude the use of aggressive treatment of the illness. The primary goal when under palliative care is to ease symptomatic side effects that result from both the illness and any prescribed treatments, such as chemotherapy.

Patients in palliative care receive all the same benefits of hospice patients including social services, full medical staff assistants, and counseling services. Patients can receive their treatment anywhere they choose, and the earlier one signs on for the care after diagnosis the better. This allows the patient and family to clarify and goals of the treatment, whether it is successful or not, to ensure that everyone’s wishes are accurately followed. The results of this care go one of three directions: Either the patient recovers fully, requires palliative care for an extended period, or treatments ultimately fail, and the patient will typically go into the hospice care stage.

Hospice Care

Once hospice care steps in, the patient and their family has likely made the decision that further medical treatment is futile. The goal at this point switches into purely ensuring a patient’s quality of life during their journey’s end. This type of care is designed to minimize the pain and suffering of those with a terminal illness, rather than to cure the illness. Like palliative care, treatment can be provided at home, in hospice facilities, hospitals, nursing homes, and other skilled long-term care institutions. One of the founding principles of hospice care is the conviction that all individuals have the right to depart this life pain-free and with the utmost dignity, while their friends and family are close by. As with palliative care, a hospice team including doctors, nurses, CNAs, social workers, and chaplains closely work with the patient and their families during this trying time.

The team works together to help relieve the patients suffering and to ensure they are as comfortable as possible, as well as to aid with the spiritual and emotional aspects of dying. All necessary supplies can be brought into the home if they choose, and typically, a hospice certified CNA steps in to aid the families in learning how to properly care for their loved one within the home environment. Many hospice patients tend to have fluctuating days, which can often become too much for the home caregivers to handle, and CNAs and nurses may be on 24 hour watch shifts as the end nears.

Making a Difference as a Hospice CNA

As you can see, palliative care is simply one form of hospice, but is reserved for those that still have hope of finding a cure. However, when treatments are unsuccessful, and hope for a longer life is no longer expected, hospice care’s end-of-life experts step in and help maximize the lifespan the patient has remaining. Embarking on a career as a certified hospice and palliative CNA is tremendously challenging, yet highly rewarding on a personal level. You will know you made a difference for these patients and their families with your assistance, compassion, and dedication to your work. Check out our article concerning How to Become a Hospice CNA to see how easy it is to get into this career after receiving your CNA certification.