Palliative Care Versus Hospice: December 6, 2011

Palliative care and hospice care are similar in that they both offer medical support for people with serious, sometimes terminal illnesses. But the two have very different objectives.

“Patients, families even our medical professionals are still confused about the role of palliative care in a patient with serious illnesses,” says Dr. Sherika Newman, a palliative care physician with Lee Memorial Health System.

Dr. Newman is part of the palliative care team at Lee Memorial Health System.

“Palliative medicine actually runs concurrent with a patient’s medical illness even when they are in curative phases such as chemotherapy, radiation therapy, being treated for their heart failure or chronic lung disease,” says Dr. Newman.

There’s a key distinction that sets it apart from hospice.

“Hospice is end of life care meaning the patient can no longer benefit from curative measures or they have failed curative measures and they’re truly at end of life and only need the support of care for end of life,” says Dr. Newman.

Palliative care is frequently directed toward cancer, heart conditions and stroke, but any illness that’s long term and debilitating can fall under its umbrella.

Taking a team approach, both palliative care and hospice includes doctors, nurses, social workers, even clergy. Points of interest range from pain management to helping a patient cope with the consequences of their condition.

“We’re focusing on quality of life and not isolating the patient into just focusing on the medical disease. And I think that as the baby boomers age, and they are an intellectually aging group, they’re going to want these types of support care,” says Dr. Newman.

It’s focus on quality of life, not end of life, sets palliative care apart.