What is palliative care and is it the same as hospice? The definition of palliative [pal-ee-uh-tiv] care is “relieving or soothing the symptoms of a disease or disorder without effecting a cure.” Palliative care sometimes referred to as “comfort care,” is a specialized approach to the treatment of patients with a serious or life-threatening illness.
The goal of palliative care is to provide relief from the symptoms, pain, and stress of serious illness. It is also designed to improve the quality of life of both the patient and the patient’s family caregivers. What sets palliative care apart from hospice is that patients can continue to receive aggressive and curative-focused treatment like chemotherapy, radiation, dialysis, and surgery while receiving palliative care. Palliative care brings another layer of support that often is missing in conventional medical care delivery.
“Hospice is a type of palliative care for those who are facing the end of their lives,” said Jeanie Saum, RN, hospice supervisor for Community Health Professionals (CHP). “You can have palliative care without hospice but you can’t have hospice without palliative care.”
Both services are based on the same philosophy of reducing the severity of the symptoms of an illness, but the main differences are that palliative care can begin at diagnosis and continue simultaneously with curative treatments. “It’s not a one size fits all approach,” said Saum. “Care is tailored to help the specific needs of the patient and is utilized to help with various diseases – each with a unique set of symptoms.”
Palliative care services focus on three main areas: pain management, symptom control and emotional and spiritual support.
- Pain Management– Physicians, healthcare professionals, and families collaborate to identify the sources of pain and relieve them with medications and other forms of therapy.
- Symptom Management– involves treating symptoms other than pain such as nausea, weakness, bowel and bladder problems, mental confusion, fatigue, and difficulty breathing.
- Emotional and spiritual support– for both the patient and family in dealing with the demands of living with and caring for a person with a critical
“Through palliative care, patients gain the strength and peace of mind to carry on with daily life, tolerate medical treatments, and better understand their choices for care,” said Saum.
The CHP palliative care and advanced planning team can help you or a loved one when facing a serious illness. Call your local CHP office to learn more.