The role of palliative care in medical treatment is often misunderstood. It’s typically referenced interchangeably with hospice care, but Manish Srivastava MD, a hospice and palliative medicine specialist, says that’s not always the case. “Hospice care is palliative care, but not all palliative care is hospice care,” he points out.
What is Palliative Care?
Palliative care helps patients who have a serious illness feel better through preventing or treating symptoms and side effects that accompany disease and treatments.
Dr. Srivastava says there are two main components involved in palliative care:
- Helping you manage symptoms
- Helping you and your family understand where you are in the disease process and what treatment options are available, so you can make informed decisions on future goals of care.
Palliative care also addresses emotional, social, practical and spiritual problems that illness brings up. “We tailor the plan based on what your perceptions and what your goals of care are,” Dr. Srivastava explains. “Our team includes me, as the physician, a nurse, a social worker and the chaplains from the hospital, so we are able to provide better physical and psycho-social support, as well as spiritual support for patients and their families.”
Palliative Care and Hospice Care: What’s the Difference?
While both services provide comfort to the patient, the main differences include:
- Palliative care can begin at diagnosis and can be given at the same time as treatment.
- Hospice care begins when it is clear the patient is not going to survive the illness and after treatment of the disease has stopped. Hospice care is usually only offered when the person is expected to live six months or fewer.