When serious illness or injury becomes a part of your life, or the life of someone you love, it can be hard to figure out how to cope, and what the next steps are. It may be the case that in-home care is needed, but it can be hard to know what kind of care would be best: Palliative Care, or Hospice. Here are a few things to know about these two options to help you make an informed decision:

1) Palliative care involves pain and symptom control for many serious illnesses that inhibit daily life, including cancer, respiratory disease, Alzheimer's, AIDS, ALS, multiple sclerosis and many more. You can receive this care in addition to curative treatments for the disease or illness. It is also not dependent on prognosis.

2) Palliative care can be given in the hospital, or as part of an outpatient treatment program, outpatient clinic, or long-term-care facility, and is almost always covered full or partially through insurance. It is also meant to assist in the treatment, by maintaining the comfort of the individual, including relief from symptoms such as trouble breathing, fatigue, depression, insomnia, bowel and bladder issues, as well a providing massage therapy or relaxation techniques as needed.

3) The main difference between palliative care and hospice is that people who are receiving hospice are no longer receiving curative treatment for their underlying disease or illness. Hospice is more about caring than curing, and is a Medicare benefit that provides palliative care to patients who are terminally ill, and only have months to live. Palliative care can be given at any stage of the disease to patients of any age.

4) Hospice also provides spiritual and emotional support, not only to the patient, but also to their family and loved ones as well. The main belief of hospice is that every individual describes a death that is dignified and free of pain.

5) Hospice is most often provided in the patient's home, but can also be provided in hospitals and other long-term-care facilities, and is available under Medicare, Medicaid, and most private insurance plans and HMO's.

6) Both services work closely with families for decision-making, and both also develop a care plan with a team of care specialists in order to meet the patient's needs. The team for Hospice care, however, includes individuals who may not be consulted in palliative care alone. This team can include the patient's personal physician, nurses, a hospitice physician, home health ideas, social workers, clergy members and other counselors, trained volunteers, and physical or speech therapists, if needed. This team also provides coaching for the family of the patient on care and guidance, as well as providing bereavement counseling to family and friends.

In this difficult time, it is important to have the care that is needed to make your family member comfortable, whether they are on the road to recovery or preparing to depart. The benefits of both palliative care and hospice also extend further than the needs of the patient to the needs of the family and friends as well.