It is easy to confuse hospice and palliative care. They are related sets of services both associated with minimizing or relieving as much as possible the pain and stress associated with life threatening conditions.
Both services are intended to support the patient and their loved ones. Each has a vital role in chronic illness and end of life.
Palliative care is a medical sub specialty provided to people with serious illnesses. Physicians can help families find palliative care providers. Patients can receive palliative care at any stage of a serious illness. It can be provided in any setting including at home, in a hospital and at other places.
The purpose of palliative care is: The relief of symptoms, the maintenance of the best possible quality of life for the patient within the limitations of their illness, and support for family before and after the death of the patient. Patients and their families are usually introduced to palliative care when it becomes apparent that attempts at cure are no longer possible or are inappropriate. (1)
Hospice is a type of palliative care for those with 6 months or less to live. The goal of hospice to make a persons life as comfortable and as meaningful as possible. Treatment includes nursing care, pain management, emotional support and aid with daily tasks. Like palliative care, hospice can take place in a persons home, in a hospice facility, within a hospital or anywhere a person resides.
The purpose of hospice is to: Manage pain or any other symptoms which cause discomfort or stress. Create a comfortable environment for the patient. Allow the patient to be close to family and loved ones during the dying process. Give relief to the patients caregiver(s). Offer counselling to the patient and those close to the patient. (2)
Both palliative and hospice care are provided by a specially trained interdisciplinary team whose members may include nurses, social workers, chaplains,and bereavement specialists who care for both the patient’s and families needs.
CertifiedCare.org offers a free eText on death, dying and the funeral planning process which is included with their caregiver certification programs.
Professional caregivers would be wise to be informed about both end of life treatment options as career steps to be considered as time and experience with adult care goes on.
- Hospice Care (2006) JAMA 295:712
By Cathleen V. Carr