VA Palo Alto Health Care System
Hospice and Palliative Care
Hospice provides care for patients and families with advanced, life-limiting illnesses. Hospice care is available for all enrolled Veterans meeting clinical eligibility criteria through the VA and may also available through Medicare and MediCal. Hospice care is most commonly provided in the home setting, but may also be delivered in nursing homes and in dedicated hospice inpatient programs.
VA eligibility for hospice care is very similar to that for hospice under Medicare. The two key conditions are that A) the patient has a limited life expectancy (usually less than six months if the illness follows its natural course), and B) that the patient accepts a "palliative approach to care," which means that the primary focus of care delivery is on enhancing the patient's quality of life, not trying to prolong the person's life.
However, some therapies that are directed toward life prolongation are allowed in hospice. It can be difficult to determine if or when hospice care is appropriate. It is not always easy to determine life expectancy. It is important that, to the extent possible, care provided is consistent with an individual Veteran's preferences.
Hospice is always a choice. If you are considering hospice care for yourself or a loved one, consider talking with your primary provider or other clinicians about your options and choices.
Palliative care is similar to hospice in that the focus is on helping patients and families live as well as they can. It is different from hospice in that there is no limit placed upon palliative care based on life expectancy. Palliative care can be provided right along with other medical care directed at cure or life prolongation.
At VA Palo Alto Health Care System, specialized palliative care is available through inpatient consultation teams at Palo Alto, Menlo Park, and Livermore divisions. These teams can assist with:
- Symptom management;
- Discussing and planning for care options;
- How best to support patients and families with stress associated with illness.
An outpatient palliative care clinic is available at Palo Alto division. If you are interested in being seen by one of our palliative care teams, please talk with your treating clinicians about this. For more information, you may contact us at (650) 849-0176.