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Palliative Care Explained

People often believe “Hospice Care” and “Palliative Care” are the same. However, that is not true. The goal of this article is to provide more detailed information on what palliative care truly is and how it is different from hospice care. 


These two types of care do in fact aim to provide patients and their families with as much comfort as possible while they endure life-threatening, serious, and/or long-lasting illnesses. However, the similarities end there. 

Hospice care is an option for people at the end of life. Typically, patients who decide on hospice care have been told by their doctor that they probably have fewer than 6 months to live. In contrast, palliative care is a good choice for patients who have illnesses that are serious and debilitating, but may last for many years. 

The World Health Organization (WHO) states in more detail that palliative care:

  • Provides relief from pain and other distressing symptoms
  • Affirms life and regards dying as a normal process
  • Intends neither to hasten or postpone death
  • Integrates the psychological and spiritual aspect of patient care
  • Offers a support system to help patients live as actively as possible until death
  • Offers a support system to help the family cope during the patient’s illness and in their own bereavement
  • Uses a team approach to address the needs of patients and their families, including bereavement counseling, if indicated
  • Will enhance quality of life, and may also positively influence the course of illness 
  • Is applicable early in the course of illness, in conjunction with other therapies that are intended to prolong life, such as chemotherapy or radiation therapy, and includes those investigations needed to better understand and manage distressing clinical complications (Sepúlveda, Marlin, Yoshida, & Ullrich, 2002, p.94-95). 

In summary, palliative care utilizes a “holistic-care” approach. Its primary goal is improving the quality of life of patients (of any age) and their families who are facing problems associated with all types of serious, chronic, and life-threatening illnesses’ At the same time, it provides relief from the symptoms and stress of the illness by means of psychosocial, spiritual, and practical medical support. It does not just serve individuals who are dying. 

For more information on the difference between palliative and hospice care, the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization (NHPCO) has provided this guide you can click on and visit. 

For more answers and/or clarification on any more palliative care questions, click here.

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Pain and Palliative
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