Palliative and Hospice Care: Where the Lines Blur

 Palliative Care vs. Hospice Care

With the plethora of different levels of care available to patients who are stricken with illnesses, there tends to be confusion when it comes to distinguishing between similar but different treatment programs.

One of the most misunderstood distinctions is as it pertains to the difference between hospice and palliative care.

While both of these programs focus primarily on the quality of life of the patient, the fact is the level of treatment and care can vary quite a bit between these two methodologies.

In this article, I shall attempt to define and distinguish between these two programs.

Palliative Care: is an area of healthcare that focuses on relieving and preventing the suffering of patients. Unlike hospice care, palliative medicine is appropriate for patients in all disease stages, including those undergoing treatment for curable illnesses and those living with chronic diseases, as well as patients who are nearing the end of life.

When a patient is being treated in a palliative care program, the focus is primarily but not exclusively limited to enhancing and addressing their quality of life. There should also be an emphasis placed on treating (and hopefully curing) the patient.

Hospice Care: Hospice is a type of care and a philosophy of care that focuses on the palliation of a terminally ill patient’s symptoms. These symptoms can be physical, emotional, spiritual or social in nature. A patient in a hospice setting wouldn’t typically receive any kind of medically invasive treatment and/or drug, save for something to alleviate pain. There are no goals and/or objectives to treat or cure the patient and therefore all associated programs are discontinued and every attempt is made to keep the patient comfortable as they approach their end of life.

Where the lines get fuzzy…

The problem arises when there is a confluence between these two programs and caregivers start treating their palliative patients as if they were on hospice. This approach is both medically and morally wrong and it is unfortunately something we are seeing with an alarming increase in frequency.

A palliative patient is NOT a hospice patient and although (like a hospice patient) they and their families have placed a great emphasis on easing their pain (whether emotional and/or physical) and increasing their quality of life, the fact remains that they wish to be treated and cured.

Unfortunately, this egregious deviation in care is sometimes perpetuated by certain hospitals and care centers that chart and recommend a course of action for their patients based too heavily on statistical and financial considerations.

The Regency Commitment

At Regency Nursing & Rehabilitation centers, we respect the differences between these two programs and we collaborate with the patients, their families and their doctors, to treat them exactly according to their needs and desires.

In both instances however, whether we are administering palliative or hospice care, our mission is to focus on the individual right of the resident to function at their optimum level without debilitating pain or undue suffering.

We listen to the needs of the patient and we address their physical, spiritual and emotional suffering and we attempt to resolve their psychosocial concerns.

Our approach is one of maintaining and increasing the dignity and quality of life for all of our patients!

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