Hospice, Palliative Care & Grief Services

Virginia Mason Franciscan Health understands the distress a family endures when a loved one is diagnosed with a terminal illness. Our hospice and palliative care teams are available from the day of diagnosis to offer medical and emotional support should a patient choose to decline or stop treatment and focus on quality of life.

Hospice care versus palliative care

Hospice care is one type of palliative care. Hospice care is provided to patients expected to live six months or less, while palliative care is appropriate at any step of the treatment process. When a patient recovers from their serious illness, they may no longer need to receive the support of their palliative care team.

Hospice care

Hospice is a compassionate, specialized health care service designed to provide comfort and support to patients with a life-limiting illness by caring for their physical, psychological and spiritual needs.

The Virginia Mason Franciscan Health hospice team includes nursing and medical care, physical therapy, in-home medical equipment, bereavement counseling, massage, aromatherapy, and music therapy to help control pain and other symptoms while supporting quality of life. 

While on hospice, a patient may also qualify for traditional medical services to treat chronic conditions unrelated to the hospice diagnosis. And if a hospice patient’s condition improves and they no longer qualify for current hospice services, their complete Medicare hospice benefit is still available when they need it again.

Palliative care

Palliative care provides relief from symptoms, side effects and stress when a person is diagnosed with a serious or life-threatening illness. The care is similar to that of hospice programs, with Virginia Mason Franciscan Health offering an experienced team of nursing and medical care, physical therapy, and emotional support. Palliative care is appropriate for patients of all ages and in all stages of serious illness.

A serious illness may include:

  • Cancer
  • Heart disease
  • Lung disease
  • Kidney disease
  • Alzheimer’s
  • HIV/AIDS
  • Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Parkinson’s
  • Other chronic conditions

It’s important to know that palliative care is provided along with other medical treatment, and receiving palliative care does not mean you stop receiving treatment for your disease. Research shows that patients who receive both types of care often report less severe symptoms, a better quality of life, and more satisfaction with treatment.

When is the right time for hospice care?

The decision to start hospice care for a loved one is usually made when treatment is no longer helping and your loved one has a life expectancy of six months or less. If you are working with the palliative care team, we can help you decide on timing and can help refer you to hospice.

Do you feel that it may be time to consider hospice care for your loved one? There are certain signs and symptoms that may help you decide.