Image by doug88888 via FlickrTwo different areas come into play when talking about what to do for a dying loved one. Hospice care and Palliative care.
Hospice care is covered by Medicaid or Medicare, for patients with life expectancies of less than 6 months, who have decided not to attempt any further agressive or curative treatments. This usually takes place when a patient and/or family decide that further treatment will not successfully cure the patient, or that the probability of success is too low and the price in pain, time, or cost is too high. Generally at the rehabilitation center I work at, patients won't get therapy if they are on hospice care, although there are exceptions.
Image via Wikipedia
Palliative care is different in several respects. First, there doesn't seem to be an explicit form of payment for palliative services, although I could be wrong. It is usually found in large hospitals, and run by doctors, nurses, chaplains, social workers and others. A patient doesn't need to have less than 6 months to live and can pursue any and all cures. The service is dedicated to the patient, in helping inform them about their diagnoses, and presenting the full range of options to them, without the practitioners' emphasis on the most agressive treatment. In palliative care there is an emphasis on putting quality into the final days, months, or years of life.
Apparently palliative care could save the health care system... or really the taxpayers, 6 billion dollars a year if it was implemented all over the country.