My cousins just started palliative care for my Aunt this past week. I am trying to understand the difference between palliative care and hospice care so I can better relate to the care being provided. Can you help?
Trying to Understand
Dear Trying to Understand:
You are not alone when it comes to having a hard time understanding the difference between palliative care and hospice care. We often hear these two terms used interchangeably, and while they do have similarities, they are different.
Palliative Care (or Comfort Care) is a comprehensive approach that focuses on providing relief and comfort from the symptoms individuals are experiencing due to their illness, such as pain, fatigue, nausea, shortness of breath, loss of appetite, insomnia, and depression to name a few. The goal is to keep the patient comfortable and stress free while improving quality of life for the patient and family. Palliative Care is administered to patients who have a serious illness and has no time frame regardless of other treatments that are being provided, such as curative treatments. It can be a short-term need, such as individuals who may be receiving treatment for cancer or long-term for individuals who need to manage the symptoms of an underlying disease, such as Congestive Heart Failure, Multiple Sclerosis, Advanced Dementia, and Kidney failure. Palliative Care treatment is individualized based on the needs and wishes of the patient receiving the care.
Palliative Care teams usually consist of doctors, nurses, social workers, pharmacists, therapists and registered dieticians. Palliative care can be provided in a number of care settings including a patient’s home, outpatient palliative care clinics, in nursing homes, hospitals, or other specialized clinics.
While palliative care is available to any individual with a serious illness, Hospice Care is a specialized type of palliative care for individuals suffering from an incurable illness or multiple illnesses with a life expectancy of six months or less. Hospice care is focused on improving quality of life, maintaining dignity, and making the patient comfortable. Patients receiving Hospice Care understand that their illness or disease is not responding to curative treatment. While a patient on Hospice Care may stop curative treatment, it does not mean they need to discontinue all treatment. Patients on Hospice Care still may continue to treat other symptoms such as high blood pressure, in addition to the treatment necessary to manage any symptoms of their terminal illness.
Hospice Care teams usually consist of doctors, nurses, social workers, and spiritual advisors. Hospice Care is also provided in the patient’s home, nursing home, or a hospice care facility.
A patient may discontinue Hospice Care at any time to resume curative treatment or if their condition improves.
Always remember you are not alone. There are many support groups and resources available to guide you through this process.
All the Best,
Colleen B. Moran, BSN, RN
Does someone in your family need some type of palliative, hospice, or in home care? Pennsylvania Agency of Nurses is the premiere provider of in home care in the greater Philadelphia area. Read our Client Testimonials, or contact us for a free assessment by clicking the button below.