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RVNAhealth Answers: what is the difference between palliative care and hospice?

Palliative Care and Hospice…Alike and Different

We recently recognized National Hospice and Palliative Care month in November. The two practices are celebrated together, as they share a similar philosophy on person-centered care and an interdisciplinary team approach focused on quality of life. But they also share misunderstandings about what each practice offers.

Hospice care is elected when a patient and family wish to go from a curative plan of care to one of comfort and caring. Hospice addresses a patient’s pain and symptom management, and overall well-being from an interdisciplinary approach – including physical, mental, social, and spiritual. Care supports both the patient and their family, helping bring focus to quality of life and allowing a patient to focus on and realize their wishes for their final life chapter.

Palliative care helps individuals with a serious illness, at any age and any stage of their illness. Patients do not require a terminal diagnosis and often still receive curative treatment for their condition. Palliative care provides a specialized team, including clinical, social workers, and pastoral care, who work with patients to help them understand their treatment options and can act as a central coordinator of care – which can be extremely beneficial in the often overwhelming early days following the diagnosis of a serious illness. Care is intended to improve quality of life and give a patient more control by improving their ability to cope with their disease.

Common illnesses addressed by both palliative and hospice include cardiac and respiratory illnesses, cancer, Alzheimer’s, AIDS, kidney disease, and more. Both practices address symptoms for comfort, including pain, shortness of breath, depression, nausea, and difficulty sleeping, to name a few.  The largest difference is in the individualized decision to continue treatment for disease, which palliative care addresses, or cease treatment and focus on quality of life and final wishes with hospice. With both practices, early intervention is most beneficial to the patient.

RVNAhealth offers both hospice and palliative care in the home or at a patient’s facility. If you have questions or would like to discuss a potential palliative or hospice care need, please contact us at 203.438.5555.

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