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An Important Difference: Hospice & Palliative Care

June 05, 2015

Do you know the difference between hospice care and palliative care? Dr. Maura Brennan, chief of Baystate’s Geriatrics & Post-Acute Medicine Division, medical director of Hospice for Baystate Visiting Nurse Association & Hospice, and a nationally certified Hospice Medical Director, explains.

Palliative Care

“Palliative care is much broader than hospice. Palliative care strives to relieve the suffering of patients at all stages of illness.

“For example, a patient might have cancer and be tired, depressed, and nauseated from the disease and the chemotherapy. Palliative care specialists work with the primary care doctor and oncologist to improve quality of life. That patient might recover fully and return to a rich and long life, and not ever need palliative care again.”

Hospice Care

“The goal of hospice is to care for people with incurable illnesses to make their last months of life better. When patients are nearing the end of life, there is only one chance to do things right. They deserve the most attentive and skilled care available.

“Hospice care is provided by an interprofessional team of caregivers and focuses on comfort, quality of life, and support for both the patient and family. Since time is likely to be limited, we try to avoid hospitalizations and burdensome treatments to maximize time at home.

“Hospice care can be provided in hospitals, free standing hospice houses, assisted living facilities and nursing homes, but most care is provided in patients’ homes since that is what most of us hope for at the end of life.”