Palliative Care and Hospice Help Parents Age Well Until the End: What’s the Difference?

“Perhaps the most common misconception about palliative care is
that it is synonymous with hospice care….”
UCLA Medicine Magazine 2009
(Now Called U)

Aging as well as possible, as long as possible

Some time ago I saved the link to Comfort Measures from a 2009 UCLA (University of California at Los Angeles) Medicine Magazine, written after Mother’s death. Prior to reading it, I’d thought palliative care was the same as Hospice. It isn’t. This informative article explains that “…….it plays a prominent role in a dying patient’s life, it is also offered in conjunction with life-prolonging and potentially curative treatments for patients with cancer, heart failure and other chronic and life-threatening conditions.”

In other words, palliative care can begin long before a doctor’s diagnosis that the patient will probably die within 6 months. That’s the diagnosis needed when Hospice offers its services. (That said, calling in Hospice is not necessarily confirming a death sentence. See Hospice link below with information that not all people receiving Hospice care die within 6 months. Some improve due to Hospice’s care and go off Hospice…and can still go back on later.)

Excerpt:

IT WASN’T LONG AGO that comfort and the psychosocial needs of seriously ill patients and their families were not top priorities for medicine, but that has changed. “The relief of suffering and the cure of disease are both obligations of the medical profession,” says Bruce Ferrell, M.D., director of palliative-care services at UCLA. “People sometimes see a rigid healthcare system that can become disconnected from the mission of providing people with humane, respectful care. Our goal is to assist them so that patients don’t suffer needlessly.”

Palliative care – which aims to relieve suffering and assist seriously ill patients and their families to address issues of treatment and support that arise in life-threatening illnesses – is among the fastest growing medical subspecialties, fueled by a number of forces, not the least of which is consumer demand. The Journal of Palliative Medicine estimates that palliative- care programs have doubled since 2000, with more than half of hospitals with at least 50 beds now having such a program. That includes UCLA, which since 2007 has had a palliative-care service providing consultations 24 hours a day, seven days a week, at both its Westwood and Santa Monica campuses….

Perhaps the most common misconception about palliative care is that it is synonymous with hospice care; in fact, though it plays a prominent role in a dying patient’s life, it is also offered in conjunction with life-prolonging and potentially curative treatments for patients with cancer, heart failure and other chronic and life-threatening conditions.

“It used to be that all of our efforts at patient care were directed at curative interventions up until the point that patients were on their deathbed, and then everything turned to comforting them in the last few days of life,” says Dr. Ferrell. “Today, there is greater appreciation for the importance of symptom control and discussions with patients and their families about the natural history of their disease early in the course of the illness.”

Read Comfort Measures in its entirety at: http://magazine.uclahealth.org/body.cfm?id=6&action=detail&ref=702

Related:
https://helpparentsagewell.com/2012/03/24/aging-parents-and-hospice-to-call-not-to-call-when-to-call/

http://www.npr.org/blogs/health/2013/12/16/250194489/how-palliative-care-helps-one-iowa-family-s-experience

3 thoughts on “Palliative Care and Hospice Help Parents Age Well Until the End: What’s the Difference?

  1. Pingback: Top 25 Safety Articles of the Week: March 15 - Safety.comSafety.com

  2. Susan, Hooray for this essay! My elderly mother lived with me for ten years, until she was 94, and then I realized something was wrong with my health, and my sister took over Mom’s care. I discovered via a health crisis that I have an autoimmune disease which is destroying my liver. Now I’M the one who has a visiting palliative care nurse. She’s wonderful. and tries her best to make me as comfortable as possible – as I wait and hope for a liver donor. So palliative care is not just for the elderly. It’s for anyone struggling with serious/chronic illness.
    Katharine

    • Thank you so much, Katharine, for sharing your ongoing experience and confirming that palliative care is wonderful for anyone– regardless of age–with serious chronic health issues. Holding good thoughts that a liver transplant becomes available for you very soon. Susan

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