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Palliative Care Defined


Palliative care aims to control pain and manage symptoms. In the context of hospice, palliative care focuses on quality of life rather than curing disease. All hospice care is palliative, but not all palliative care includes hospice.
 

Palliative care in hospice


Pain during terminal illness can be physical, emotional, and/or spiritual in nature and origin. In hospice, palliative care aims to relieve suffering by managing physical symptoms such as nausea, shortness of breath and constipation that may be caused by the illness or result from side-effects of medication. Hospice-based palliative care also addresses other issues such as anxiety, insomnia or depression. Some hospices offer complementary therapies such as healing touch, meditation, aroma therapy, music therapy and pet therapy. Non-denominational, non-judgmental hospice chaplains offer opportunity for spiritual exploration and discussion.

Many hospice physicians, nurses, social workers, and home health aides have advanced training and specialized certifications in the provision of palliative care.
 

Palliative care without hospice


Palliative care outside of hospice may be used during any point in the illness. Patients may receive palliative care while they receive treatment aimed at curing or slowing the progression of their disease. Sometimes such treatments (e.g. chemotherapy, radiation, etc.) can be better tolerated with the help of palliative care, making it a good option for people who are not in the final stages of illness but who desire expert pain management.

Although transitioning to a hospice program is not mandatory, many patients elect to do so to access the additional practical, spiritual and psycho-social support offered in hospice care.
 

Accessing palliative care


When someone enrolls in hospice, they automatically receive palliative care. But if you think you might benefit from palliative care outside of a hospice program, ask your physician, nurse practitioner, or physician’s assistant for a referral to a palliative care provider. Many hospitals now offer palliative care services, and many hospices have palliative care groups that operate separately from their hospice services.