Hospice care and palliative care are both synonymous with comfort, but there are important differences. Understanding these differences and understanding the importance of palliative care will ensure the seriously ill receive the right level of care at the right time so they can make the most of each day they have.
What is palliative care?
When a patient is seriously ill, they typically choose to work with their doctors in hopes of a cure or prolonged management of their symptoms to extend their life. These patients may also choose to receive palliative care as a comfort measure to relieve pain or side effects of their curative treatments to improve the overall quality of their lives.
A good example of why palliative care is important is a cancer patient who elects to pursue chemotherapy and/or radiation as a curative treatment. While this treatment is often effective at shrinking or destroying cancer cells, it has a wide range of side effects including nausea, loss of appetite, skin burns, dry mouth, fatigue, and constipation.
Addressing these side effects improves the patient’s overall quality of life which is why palliative care is important to consider whenever a patient receives a diagnosis of serious or chronic illness.
Patients who begin palliative care receive visits from a nurse practitioner and a palliative care social worker who work alongside their regular physicians to monitor their plan of care.
How is palliative care different from hospice care?
Hospice care also seeks to provide pain relief and symptom management in patients, but patients are only eligible to receive hospice care once they have received a prognosis of six months or less to live and elect to discontinue curative care.
At this point, a patient can transition from palliative care to hospice care. As the patient’s illness progresses to the terminal stage, the level of care required increases. Hospice care provides a full team of support for the patient including a nurse, hospice aide, social worker, chaplain, bereavement specialist, and volunteers.
Patients who have been diagnosed with a serious or terminal illness should speak with their healthcare provider about what palliative or hospice care options are available at the current point in their disease progression. Even if the patient is not yet ready for palliative or hospice care, becoming educated about the options will help them take an active role in planning for the future.
Why is palliative care important?
In today’s society, people are living longer than ever – even those facing serious chronic illnesses can often enjoy a much longer lifespan than past generations thanks to advancement in the treatment of diseases including cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and COPD. While doctors may be successful in giving their patients a longer life, both the disease and the treatment can cause pain and other side effects.
Palliative care is important because it gives patients an option for pain and symptom management and higher quality of life while still pursuing curative measures. When a patient is seriously ill, they understand the value of each day. While they still must face their illness, the support of palliative care in controlling pain and other symptoms can make each day a more positive experience that allows the patient to make the most of the time they have with their families.
To find out more about palliative care, please call us at 1-888-564-3405.
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