Barbara Fradkin – FLORIDA TODAY

Q: Can you explain hospice and palliative care?

A: Many times during my consultations, I will discuss hospice and palliative care with clients who are terminally ill or struggling with serious illness. Almost always, they say, “I’m not ready for that.” Some don’t want to acknowledge their true situation and others simply need to learn more. So I ask them, “If you were in total control of your last months of life, what would you want to do?”

Let me answer that, based on my 25 years of talking with people about hospice. You would want to be comfortable, in your home and receiving the best care possible. You would want to be treated with dignity and compassion. You would want your family to be relieved of stress and focused on sharing time with you, rather than worrying about your care. You can exercise important options now, to make your own decisions and know your personal wishes will be carried out.

Once a patient is deemed eligible for hospice by their physician, services can begin. Hospice works on symptom management; to prevent or treat the symptoms or side effects of a disease, and compassionately address related psychological, social, and spiritual matters.  A care team of doctors, nurses, social workers, nutritionists and Chaplains all work together, to ensure a comfortable and dignified end of life for the patient.  Hospice care is covered by insurance.

Palliative care is specialized medical care for people living with a serious illness, such as cancer or heart failure, dementia, Parkinson’s disease or COPD. It enhances the patient’s complete care by focusing on symptom management and quality of life. Palliative care begins at the discretion of the physician at any time or stage of illness, terminal or not. A palliative care team of professionals work with the patient, family, and doctors to provide medical, social, emotional, and practical support. Like hospice care, it is also covered by insurance.

Hospital beds, oxygen, medications and other items related to your illness are covered by insurance for hospice and palliative care.  Physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy and dietary counseling are also covered for palliative purposes. Likewise, inpatient care for pain and other symptoms that cannot be managed at home are covered.

VITAS Healthcare offers a guide for families to help with the decision to start hospice or palliative care.  You can download a copy of “Considering Hospice Care: A discussion guide for families” at or you can come talk to me at One Senior Place. Believe me, it is never too early for hospice.


One Senior Place is a marketplace for resources and provider of information, advice, care and on-site services for seniors and their families. Questions for this column are answered by professionals in nursing, social work, care management and in-home care. To submit a question, send an email to or visit One Senior Place, The Experts in Aging at Barbara Fradkin is a Social Worker, Certified Care Manager and the Director for One Senior Place, Viera.