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End of Life

Hospice & Palliative Care: What Are The Differences?

Reviewed by: MySeniorCare Staff
Last Updated: 4/13/2010 3:16:07 PM

With many life-threatening illnesses, a patient must deal with several painful, embarrassing and frustrating symptoms. Palliative care consists of a series of therapies designed to relieve those symptoms.

Such types of treatment are often confused with hospice care, but there is, a distinction between palliative care and the treatment provided in a hospice setting.

Palliative Care is Specific for Each Person

The human body reacts to diseases in different ways, and those who administer palliative care create a therapy program designed for the specific symptoms of a patient. This type of care also can mean lending a helping hand while someone is receiving chemotherapy or other treatments.

Some common examples of palliative care include:

Assistance with financial issues, such as ensuring all utility and credit card bills are paid on time. A caregiver can make phone calls to health insurance companies on behalf of the patient to double-check coverage.

Anti-depressants for a critically-ill patient who is suffering from depression. A life-threatening diagnosis sometimes can send a person into a spiral of depression that hinders their recovery, so palliative care is ideal for these situations.

Nutritional therapy to help the patient build strength and maintain a positive outlook.

Physical therapy to help a patient maintain mobility. This could include daily workouts in the pool or being properly fitted for a walker or a pair of crutches.

Taking care of routine home maintenance, such as doing the laundry, washing the dishes or cutting the lawn.

Palliative care can take place in just about any setting, including a hospital or a patient's home. The overall goal is to relieve the pain and stress that accompanies many diseases.

Hospice Care Designed for Terminally-Ill Patients

Individuals who have been diagnosed with a terminal illness sometimes receive hospice care. As the American Cancer Society website points out, hospice care is an entire philosophy of care designed to help patients manage their symptoms and live each day with as much dignity, and the least amount of pain, as possible. Palliative care is, therefore, a big part of the hospice philosophy.

People can receive hospice care in an assisted living facility, nursing home, hospital, their own home or during a stay at a dedicated hospice facility.

This type of care is also intended for family members and caregivers who will watch over the patient in the final stages of their life. Hospice counselors even help relatives and friends come to terms with the potential loss of a loved one.

Remember, hospice care treats the person, not the disease.

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