Palliative (pal-lee-uh-tiv) medicine or palliative care is a specialized form of medical care intended for people with serious illness. It is delivered by a collaborative team of physicians, advanced practice providers, nurses, social workers and spiritual care providers for patients who need an extra layer of support. The focus of this practice is to clarify the goals of a patient's care while helping to alleviate the pain and discomfort that follows life-altering conditions by providing effective symptom management.
In addition to the physical challenges presented by a serious diagnosis, patients and families confronting serious or life-threatening illnesses often must make difficult decisions regarding their goals for medical treatment, advance care planning, and desires for care within a private home or an extended care facility. Spiritual concerns and feelings of grief also weigh heavily on the minds of patients and their loved ones. Our palliative care team recognizes the emotional struggles that our patients endure, and our interdisciplinary team is specially trained and prepared to assist in whatever way we can to best serve our patients’ needs and the needs of their families.
Differences between Palliative Care and Hospice
Palliative medicine and hospice care are closely related, and we understand that it can be difficult to understand the differences between these two models of care. Hospice is actually a specific type of palliative care geared toward only the final months of life. Think of it this way:
- Hospice care is reserved for people with a life expectancy of six months or less should their illness follow its usual course. Curative treatments are not continued once a patient is enrolled in hospice, and most hospice care takes place outside of a hospital or extended care facility.
Palliative care is available to anyone diagnosed with a serious condition, and this type of care can begin at any stage in the illness, even upon onset. Palliative options are typically provided in the hospital and can also accompany curative measures.