Compassionate Care for Seniors

 In Advice

Baby boomers changed the way Americans think about work and leisure, and they’re changing the way seniors look at the end of life. As the need for help with daily routines and health needs increase, two major kinds of aid are becoming more common. The two concepts, hospice and assisted living, are similar but they are also distinctly different.

What is the difference between hospice and assisted living?

The first hospice practice originated around 1950 in London, England. Designed for terminally ill patients, its goals are to support the family, keep the patient comfortable, and relieve pain and other symptoms, not to cure an illness. Hospice care involves a team of professionals and volunteers who work to meet physical, emotional and spiritual needs. It can take place in the home, hospital, nursing home or in a special hospice facility. Medicare, Medicaid or private health insurance may pay for some or all of the cost.

Assisted living provides many of the same services as hospice, but it focuses on people who can still do many things for themselves but are gradually becoming less able to follow their daily routines. Its services include help with needs like personal hygiene, meals, transportation and social life. Assisted living takes place at home or in facilities, as hospice does, but it usually costs less because patients need less help. Medicare, life insurance plans and state funds pay part of the cost, but assisted living usually requires a higher out-of-pocket contribution than hospice does.

Cancer and the Senior Citizen

Researchers say 1 in 4 new diagnoses are in people between the ages of 65 and 74. The median age, for example, of a prostate diagnosis in a senior is 66 years while that of lung tumor is 70 years. With a life expectancy of around 80 years, seniors with terminal illnesses may need extended care.

Military veterans may be eligible for special help with the cost of assisted living, but they are also more likely to be diagnosed with various kinds of cancer. The five most common are melanoma and tumors of the lungs, prostate, urinary tract and colon, but veterans are at especially high risk for mesothelioma, a rare malignancy caused by asbestos exposure.

Although the use of hospice is becoming more common, many seniors still receive aggressive health care at the end of their lives. Families and professionals can make the transition more peaceful by talking openly about the patient’s wishes. The philosophy of hospice is for every patient to die with comfort and dignity.

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