Commonly mistaken for hospice care, palliative care is any type of outpatient care that is available to improve quality of life for patients who currently have or have had a potentially life-threatening disease, such as cancer, but may not be in a life-threatening position with their disease.
While palliative care is focused on relieving negative symptoms of a disease and helping improve the patient's quality of life, hospice care is a type of advanced palliative care and is usually offered to patients who are nearing the end of their lives.
Hospice care is designed for people with advanced, incurable diseases like some forms of cancer, and it focuses on pain relief and comfort, as well as emotional support and grief therapy for loved ones. As a patient approaches the final stage of his/her life, hospice care focuses on providing humane and compassionate care so that the person may live as fully and comfortably as possible in his or her final days, weeks or months.
A patient is usually referred to hospice care when he or she can no longer be treated medically and is expected to have six months or less to live. The patient, family and doctor will discuss best care plan together should hospice care be an option.
Hospice care can be administered at the patient's home, at a hospice facility, in a hospital or in a skilled nursing home facility. A standard hospice care team includes the patient's oncologist, a hospice doctor, nurses, home health aides, social workers, clergy or other counselors, speech, physical and occupational therapists and volunteers, all working together to make the patient's life more comfortable.
Hospice workers also help loved ones cope both during and after the patient's final days.
If you have questions about hospice or palliative care and services close to home, call our 24/7 askSARAH helpline to speak with a registered nurse.