Death and Dying
Hospice Overview
Palliative Care Overview
Six FAQs
Medicare Benefit

Pain Management

Symptom Management
A Brief Overview of Hospice Care

The terms palliative care and hospice care are often used interchangeably. Palliative care actually grew out of the hospice movement, and, like hospice, the relief of pain and suffering in advanced disease is the main focus of care. However, there are some important differences.

The National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization defines palliative care as care that “enhances comfort and improves the quality of life”. Other definitions point out that palliative care starts in the initial phase of the disease process, and continues through this process until cure, remission, or death occurs. In palliative care, no specific treatment is excluded, from curative treatments to resuscitation; however, emphasis remains on comfort care of the patient and the needs of the family dealing with a life-altering disease process.

Palliative care programs are most often found in a hospital setting, and are an attempt to meet the needs of patients who are not ready for hospice care, yet are experiencing disease progression and the focus is shifting to pain and symptom management. The interdisciplinary team concept of hospice care is often utilized, however palliative care programs may not provide all of the supportive services that hospice provides, such as bereavement care or spiritual support.

Principles of palliative care include:

Viewing death and dying as a normal process that is neither hastened nor postponed.

Providing pain management and relief from distressing symptoms.

Integrating psychological and spiritual aspects of the disease process into care.

Offering a support system to the family to help them cope during the illness and into bereavement. (Core Curriculum for the Generalist Hospice and Palliative Nurse, 2002).

Reimbursement for palliative care is provided through the patient’s own health insurance policy as part of their hospital coverage. There is no designated Medicare program for palliative care.