ROCHESTER, Minn. — June 14, 2012. Associating palliative care with hospice or end-of-life care is not uncommon — but they aren't exactly the same. The June issue of Mayo Clinic Health Letter explains the differences and how palliative care can help people with serious health conditions feel better and even live longer.
Palliative medicine is a relatively new medical specialty that focuses on relieving symptoms and stress associated with serious illness. Palliative care can be delivered with treatment to cure or improve the underlying illness.
Hospice care is generally limited to those whose life expectancy is six months or less. Hospice care focuses on providing physical comfort and support to make the most of the last weeks to months of life. All hospice care is palliative, but at any stage of a chronic or serious illness, palliative care can help people live better.
Palliative care is a team effort and may include a primary care physician, specialists, pharmacists, dietitians, physical or occupational therapists, specially trained nurses, physician assistants, social workers, chaplains and mental health care providers. Treatment could address pain, fatigue, loss of appetite, insomnia, shortness of breath, nausea, constipation, depression, anxiety and grief. Care may be delivered in a hospital, a care center, through in-home services or in outpatient settings.
Recent data shows the benefits of palliative care early in the course of treatment for serious illness. A study found that palliative care, when delivered in tandem with standard cancer treatment, helped patients feel better and live longer when compared with patients who received standard treatment alone.
Mayo Clinic Health Letter is an eight-page monthly newsletter of reliable, accurate and practical information on today's health and medical news. To subscribe, please call 800-333-9037 (toll-free), extension 9771, or visit Mayo Clinic Health Letter Online.
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