Hospice and Palliative care-information on difference, effective communication, key to high quality discussion and options

Statue image 
from Savior Hospice in Scottsdale

Claudette Rodriguez

Statue image from Savior Hospice in Scottsdale

Claudette Rodriguez, Reporter

Discussions about end of life care will inevitably become commonplace within our aging population.

As Palliative Care and Hospice become more available in the United States, there are many who are still unaware of its true definition and purpose.

The National Institutes of Health defines Hospice as medical care that is offered to a patient in the final stages of a terminal illness. Aggressive and curative treatments have been stopped and the focus of care changes to enhancing quality of life and managing symptoms.

Tami Dale, a Registered Nurse for Savior Hospice in Scottsdale clarifies some common misconceptions about Hospice care.

“People think that Hospice means you are going to die in six months or less. There are people who have been on Hospice for much longer than six months.  As long as there is a decline, as minor as it may be, they can receive Hospice and the support they need,” Dale said.

Hospice care differs from its counterpart, Palliative Care.  The National Institute of Nursing Research, a section of NIH, defines Palliative Care as the comprehensive treatment of chronic illnesses.  Palliative Care addresses the mental, physical, and spiritual needs of patients with chronic diseases.

Palliative Care does not stop the use of disease modifying and curative treatments and instead works with the patient’s care team to holistically enhance quality of life and ease the suffering of chronic illness.

Cindy Richardson, Registered Nurse and the Director of Savior Hospice and Savior Palliative Care in Scottsdale said of Palliative care, “On the Palliative Care side, patients can still seek any type of aggressive treatment they want.  Palliative Care allows us to give them extra support at home, but then it still allows them to get chemo and other aggressive treatments.“

While educating the community about the differences between Palliative Care and Hospice can sometimes be challenging, nurses who care for these patients find the rewards to be far greater than any of the challenges they might confront.

“It is literally an honor for me to have a family allow me to be part of the journey with their loved one passing.  I always thank the patient too.  I always whisper in their ear, ‘Thank you for allowing me to be apart of your journey and to take care of you.’ It’s what I wanted to do in life. It is as rewarding as it is challenging and I would do it again ten times over.  It’s such an honor,” Dale said.