An understanding of the distinction between curative and palliative care is essential when assessing the proper care of someone who is very ill or someone who has sustained a massive head injury.  If it is believed that the individual can be cured, then measures should be taken to affect that outcome, and the aim of curative care then becomes that of healing the patient.  Great strides in medical care have enabled physicians to keep human hearts beating and lungs breathing, essentially, after the body is incapable of doing so on its own.  At some point, this can become counterproductive.

Palliative care, on the other hand, seeks to keep the patient comfortable once it has been determined that nothing else is working, and that the condition is incurable.  At that point, the patient is placed in hospice care where the emphasis is on comfort, treating the symptoms rather than the cause.  Palliative accepts death as the natural conclusion of life.

It is important to know that Medicare coverage of hospice care is available for beneficiaries who have been certified as terminally ill. Hospice programs must pay for all the care that is rendered to the Medicare beneficiary.

It is a struggle to watch someone we love die, but that is where hospice can help.  An interdisciplinary team of trained professionals assists the family and the patient with understanding the process. A management plan is tailored specifically to each patient, according to the individual patient's needs and personality. This is often a very difficult for families, but by choosing a care giver that can allow for a loved one to pass in a peaceful and dignified manner, it helps with the grieving of the entire family. 

One day, any one of us could be faced with the realization that nothing is working for a loved one who is trapped in a decaying body racked with pain.  At this point, we may opt to suspend curative treatment and remove life support , allowing the natural process to take its course.  Consider this as a time when the patient can return home and be surrounded by loved ones until the end.

Editor’s Note:  Thanks to Hospice Compassus for this helpful article