Palliative Care vs. Hospice Care
Palliative care, or comfort care, is specialized medical care that focuses on improving the quality of life for patients by relieving pain and other symptoms to ensure that they are as comfortable as possible. Although an emphasis is placed on pain management, palliative care also encompasses other symptoms, such as nausea, loss of appetite, shortness of breath, constipation, fatigue, and insomnia.
Hospice is palliative in nature; but instead of focusing on curative or therapeutic treatments, we are providing comfort measures to patients so that they may experience as comfortable death as possible. It can be said that hospice is a specialized field that utilizes palliative techniques that are not curative. One can receive palliative treatment and not need end-of-life care.
Palliative care in hospice can also provide significant benefits to patients’ family members and caregivers. As we help to ease our patients’ suffering, we can help to reduce the stress that family members and caregivers are experiencing. One study conducted at the Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Center found that caregivers of cancer patients who were receiving palliative care experienced significantly lower levels of depression after 12 weeks. The doctors believe that they indirectly received the benefits of the comfort care that the patients were receiving.