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What Is Palliative Care?

Most people have experienced palliative care. Palliative care focuses on comfort, symptom management, and pain relief. An example would be going to the doctor because of an accident that caused an injury. While the doctor is treating the wound in a curative form, they will also treat the symptoms from the wound to make the patient more comfortable by prescribing medication or suggesting pain-alleviating methods such as cold compress, resting, or keeping a limb raised. These suggestions are palliative care because, while the physician is addressing the injury, the suggestions won’t ultimately cure the wound caused by the injury. To palliate is to alleviate or make the symptoms caused by disease or injury less unpleasant, without actually removing the cause, in order to improve quality of life.

How Is Palliative Care Incorporated With Hospice Care?

While the goal of hospice care and palliative care is pain and symptom relief, the prognosis and objectives of these two cares tend to be different. In the example used above, the prognosis of a healthy person with an injury is to cure the ailment and restore their body and health. Hospice care does not have curative intent and is offered in lieu of curative treatment while palliative care is available at any time throughout a patient’s disease. Patients who choose to opt for hospice care have been estimated to have only six months left to live by their primary physician or no longer want to seek aggressive or curative care.

What Is Comfort Care?

Comfort care is a form of palliative care—it focuses on comfort and addresses all the needs and goals of both patient and family which includes physical, emotional and spiritual/religious needs. Comfort care goals are comprised of but are not limited to:

  • Improving the patient’s quality of life.
  • Diminishing the patient’s pain, anxiety, and discomfort.
  • Lessening the patient’s emotional distress, unease, and/or depression.
  • Assisting the patient with their safety, mobility, and equipment needs.
  • Giving the patient religious or spiritual counseling.
  • Assisting patients and their loved ones with making the best decisions in regards to their disease.