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Hospice Care and Palliative Care – The Differences


Hospice care is about making someone’s last days as pain-free and decent as possible. Palliative care is a different thought coming from a different perspective. Palliative care is about improving the life quality of a chronically ill patient and family.

“I was a little surprised when I was offered support they called ‘palliative’. I thought it was for cancer patients and people who are dying.” Said Lucy, who suffers from COPD and did not know there were palliative care options for people like her with other chronic conditions.

Palliative care provides support for chronic illness

Raymond Yung, M.D. chief of the Division of Geriatric and Palliative Medicine in the U-M Medical School points out “The goal of palliative care is to provide relief from symptoms, and stress of a serious illness, whatever the diagnosis”.

Patients who are living with chronic illness have to deal with much more than the symptoms of being sick. The mind has plays a big part too. “When I realized that I would be dealing with this condition for the rest of my life,” said Lucy, “I became very depressed. Obviously, I had to deal with the breathing symptoms, but for a while, I could not see the point of carrying on.”

Palliative care teams

The structure of the team depends on the patient. There are many specialists who could be drawn into a care team. The primary cause medical team will be involved, but in addition, there could be dieticians, or psychologists, social care workers or chaplains. The team comes together to support the patient and family physically, emotionally and spiritually as well as medically. To quote the Shawshank Redemption this is about getting busy living.

“I live alone and don’t get chance to get out,” Lucy added, “the palliative team were able to help me with practical things such as food delivery and even shopping when I felt able to do it. But the best for me was the financial help I got. I was properly covered and insured, but there is a mass of paperwork, and making sure that it was being taken care of when I was sick took a lot of worry from my shoulders.” She said.

Palliative care in the home

“Staying in my own home was the most important thing to me,” said Jerry a three-year sufferer of chronic heart disease. “Over the last couple of years, as this thing got worse, I wanted to be at home but was worried what it would do to my wife. Besides everything else I am a big man.”

Jerry’s concerns are real. His wife is a diminutive 5’4” and 130lbs. She would never be able to lift him were he to fall. Working with their own palliative team they made adjustments to the house and developed a daily schedule where Jerry gets home visits and there is a 24-hour number available to his wife so help is always only minutes away at any time.