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Hospice and Palliative Care: What's the Difference?
By Christina Lonigro

Many times with decline in health or a terminal diagnosis we hear words such as Palliative care or Hospice. Both seem to carry a negative connotation within the public eye and sometimes the words are even used interchangeably. It is, however, unfortunate that many people do not take the opportunity to utilize services that are not intended to enhance or postpone death but are utilized to enhance the quality of life and the wishes of the patient.

Hospice care is the comfort care and support that the patient and family receive during the last 6 months of life. Symptoms are managed so that the patient may remain safe and comfortable at home (wherever that may be).

So what is Palliative care? A simple definition of Palliative care is that it is an area of healthcare that focuses on relieving and preventing the pain and suffering of patients. Unlike hospice care, palliative care can be at any age or at any stage of an illness. Palliative care may service the patients who continue to undergo treatments to prolong life such as chemotherapy and dialysis but it may also include those patients who nearing the end of life.

Palliative care is a support system that utilizes a team approach to care for the patients and their families who are dealing with chronic, life limiting and/or life threatening illnesses. The team members may include a Palliative care physician, nurse, chaplain, social worker and/or pharmacist. The goal of the palliative care team is to work with the patients and families to understand their own needs and wishes. By understanding the needs and wishes of the patient, the palliative care team can help to develop a plan of care and to communicate that plan in guiding the health care team. This advanced care planning can help alleviate stress and can also help avoid unwanted treatment and/or crisis management. The palliative care team does not replace the patient's medical physician but is an extra support to help manage pain and other symptom that affect the patient's quality of life. Along with this symptom management, the team helps the patient and family to navigate the health care system, investigates appropriate community resources, and provides spiritual and emotional counseling and support.

In conclusion, hospice and palliative care support the patients and families who are facing chronic, life limiting and/or life threatening diagnoses. The goals of the palliative care team are to avoid any unnecessary pain and suffering, by focusing on the quality of life and by supporting the patient and family in a holistic approach to achieve their goals.

For more information, contact Christina Lonigro, Community Liaison, Interim HealthCare, Inc., at (412) 436-2200 or clonigro@interim-health.com.

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