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Weekly Tips & Insights

Understanding Palliative Care

Updated: Dec 7, 2020

It is important to understand the difference between hospice and palliative care. While they represent similar kinds of treatment, they impact different kinds of patients. Understanding their difference can help you make informed decisions for yourself or a loved one.

Palliative care is for patients of any age and at any stage of a serious illness or chronic condition (Center to Advance Palliative Care). If you or a loved one was recently diagnosed with cancer, for example, palliative care might be a good option. Its goal is to improve health, treat symptoms, and increase comfort through a holistic and interdisciplinary approach to treatment. Ultimately, the hope is to relieve the burden of long-term and/or advance illness.

Hospice does include palliative care; it can therefore be easy to confuse the two. However, hospice is generally introduced to patients with six months or fewer left to live and does not include active treatment. Palliative care can include curative treatment and prepares patients to either transition into hospice or transition back to independent living.

The benefits of palliative care are substantial. Beyond reducing hospital costs (a recent study showed that Medicaid enrolled patients who received palliative care saved up to $7,000), studies have shown that patients receiving palliative care exhibited greater improvements in mood and quality of life. Moreover, palliative care can often help patients and their loved ones talk in more depth about end of life plans. This continued to be true even if a patient was not being treated for a life-threatening illness.

VNA recently introduced its palliative care, or Advanced Illness Management (AIM), program. Our program focuses on patients with difficulty leaving the home due to serious chronic illness as well as their caregiver(s) to help prevent and relieve physical, emotional, social or spiritual suffering in order to enhance the quality of life. To read more about VNA’s AIM program, or to decide if AIM might be right for you or a loved one, check out our AIM resource page here.


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