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Originally Published: Common Sense March/April 2019
The terms “hospice” and “palliative care” remain synonymous for many health care providers. Despite the intertwined relationship, it is important that we understand the differences in an effort to provide appropriate resources for our patients facing serious, life-limiting illness. Palliative care, also known as palliative medicine, is specialized medical care for people living with serious illness. It focuses on providing relief from the symptoms and stress of a serious illness whatever the diagnosis. The goal is to improve quality of life for both the patient and the family. Hospice care is designed to give supportive care to people in the final phase of a terminal illness and focus on comfort and quality of life, rather than cure. Those with a prognosis of six months or less meet criteria for hospice. A Center to Advance Palliative Care survey found that most health care professionals erroneously equated palliative care with end-of-life (EOL) care. This lack of understanding leads to ineffective communication between the provider and patient or health care proxy.