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Palliative care is different from Hospice.

Palliative care is different from Hospice.

While Hospice has long provided medical support and personalized comfort to terminally ill patients and their loved ones, a newer specialty called "palliative care" is helping seriously ill patients in various stages of their illness. 

While palliative care is often a key element of hospice care, the two are different. Palliative care may be provided at any time during a person’s illness, even from the time of diagnosis. It is available to patients receiving curative treatment as well as those facing terminal illness.  However, it shares a philosophy with hospice of improving quality of life while respectfully and compassionately tending to the unique needs of the whole person that goes beyond the diagnosis.

Palliative Care Defined

Palliative care is a medical specialty focused on the needs of patients with serious and chronic illnesses. Examples include: cancer, congestive heart failure, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), kidney failure, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, or Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) and more.

The goal of palliative care is to improve quality of life, and this means supporting both patients and their families on many levels, be it improving function, providing symptom relief or reducing the stress of a serious illness.  Because palliative care takes a multi-dimensional approach, it relies  on a diverse team of caregivers.

 Monroe Clinic’s palliative care team, including a physician, nurse, chaplain and social worker, works with patients and families to provide:

  • Medical decision-making assistance
  • Pain and symptom management
  • Communication between patient, family and providers
  • Emotional and spiritual support

Emergence of Palliative Care

Palliative care programs first emerged in the U.S. during the late 1980s. It evolved from within hospice, applying the "whole person" philosophy of care while meeting gaps in caring for seriously ill and dying patients.  The World Health Organization first introduced it in 1990, defining it as “an approach to care which improves quality of life of patients and their families facing life-threatening illness through prevention, assessment, and treatment of pain and other physical, psychological, and spiritual problems.”

Monroe Clinic began offering palliative care in 2008 in both the clinic and hospital settings. The decision to bring a comprehensive palliative care program to patients was based on several factors:

• Palliative care provides our physicians with a support network for their seriously ill patients who are dealing with complex pain or symptom management issues.

• As the demographics shift to reflect a population that is aging and living longer, palliative care addresses the changing needs of our patients.

• Most importantly, palliative care aims to improve the quality of care and the quality of life for our patients by helping them feel better during their illness, make informed medical decisions and navigate the sometimes-complicated medical system.

"Monroe Clinic has embraced the importance of 'whole person' health care since its beginnings. Palliative care at Monroe Clinic is rooted in the guiding principle that the most effective health care addresses the emotional, spiritual and physical needs of each patient," said Gaines Richardson, MD, palliative care specialist.

Palliative care is available through a provider's request.  To learn more, talk to your provider.