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What is Palliative Care and how is it different from Hospice Care?

Palliative Care is a unique medical specialty which transcends organ-specific illnesses and offers a holistic approach to caring for the patient and caregivers. Most people lump palliative care with hospice care but they are in fact distinct. Here’s what you need to know about palliative and hospice care and how to access the benefits.  

What is Palliative Care? 

Palliative care is a type of medical care that can help individuals who are aging, living with illness, and/or their caregivers. It is provided in conjunction with life-prolonging and curative treatments, to help patients and their loved ones live well. Seriously ill patients are those with a life-threatening illness, like organ failure, dementia, or cancer, that negatively impact a person’s daily life or puts a lot of stress on their caregiver.   

Palliative Care is provided by an interdisciplinary team of physicians, nurses, social workers, and chaplains who collaborate closely with your primary care and subspecialty care providers. Palliative care specialists assess and manage symptoms stemming from serious illness. They can also help individuals and caregivers cope with serious illness, develop an advance care plan, and identify what matters most. Palliative care helps patients live longer and live better, while also supporting families and caregivers.

Accessing Palliative Care 

Individuals can benefit from palliative care at any point. They can receive palliative care in conjunction with curative or life-prolonging treatments and it can be provided in the hospital, in clinics, and at home, both in person and via telepalliative care. Palliative Care improves quality of life, reduces symptom burden, and helps patients and caregivers feel supported.  

Ask your primary care or subspecialty doctor for a referral to a palliative care specialist or search the database to find a specialist near you. Not sure if palliative care is right for you? Connect with an EpioneMD coach and learn more about palliative care and if it can benefit you or a loved one.   

What is Hospice Care?  

Hospice care is provided to patients nearing the end-of-life (with a high risk of dying in the next 6 months), who no longer benefit from or choose to forgo disease-related treatments, and who would like to focus on being comfortable. 

An interdisciplinary team of physicians, nurses, social workers, and chaplains provide quality medical care at the end-of-life while supporting loved ones through the dying process and with bereavement counseling after death.  

Accessing Hospice Care 

Patients can access Hospice care through a referral from their primary care or subspecialty care doctor. Hospice care can be provided in various settings depending on the needs such as in the home, in a nursing home, in a hospital, or in a hospice house. Hospice care decreases distressing symptoms at the end-of-life and provides support to family members. 

EpioneMD can Help

Not sure if hospice care is right for you? Connect with an EpioneMD coach and learn more about how hospice care can benefit you or a loved one.   

Bottom Line 

Palliative and Hospice Care aim to help people living with serious illness live well. Speak with an EpioneMD coach to learn more about how palliative care and/or hospice care can benefit you or a loved one.   

Caitlin Baran M.D. is a Palliative Care physician and Coach with EpioneMD. She completed completed her fellowship in Hospice & Palliative Medicine at the Harvard Interprofessional Palliative Care program. She has worked at academic centers including Massachusetts General Hospital and was an Instructor in Medicine at Harvard Medical School. Caitlin is humbled to practice Palliative Care, a field of medicine designed to understand who people are and align healthcare choices with their values.

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