Palliative Care and Hospice: Apples and Oranges? 

We often like to say that when two things are radically different from each other, they are ‘apples and oranges.’  Palliative care and hospice care, like apples and oranges, are different things entirely.  Here’s a quick rundown on each one.

These specialties have less in common than what we think. They are often paired because both types of care can usually be given where a patient lives, be that in a facility of some sort or in a home.  Both of these specialties can involve significant work with pain management.  As a result, it is not uncommon for one doctor to be involved in both hospice and palliative care.

Most people know at least something about hospice care.  Hospice is specifically designed to provide comfort-focused care, equipment and services in the last few months of life.  The objective is to help patients stay comfortable and experience the end of life on their terms.  It is also intended to provide support for family members and caregivers, relieving stress and helping them deal with the many unknowns.

Palliative care, on the other hand is a medical specialty that focuses on helping patients with the symptoms and stress of a serious illness.  That could include, for example, pain, depression, shortness of breath, fatigue, constipation, nausea, loss of appetite, difficulty sleeping, anxiety and any other symptoms that may be causing distress. The goal is to improve quality of life for both patient and family. Palliative care serves as an extra layer of support to help patients understand their disease or condition and live more comfortably with it.

Palliative care is offered to people with any serious illness at any stage of disease, even at the time of initial diagnosis.   This includes serious chronic illnesses such as COPD, heart diseases, kidney disease dementia and many others.  Palliative care can be used to complement the work of a patient’s medical team and the aggressive care they may be receiving for their condition.

North Ottawa Community Health System is very fortunate to have the expertise of Dr. Stuart VanderHeide, who is board certified in both Hospice and Palliative Care and the Medical Director of our programs.  We also have an experienced nurse practitioner, Amy Zuidema, who focuses on palliative care.  Talk to your physician if you feel that either palliative care or hospice care might be right for you or a loved one.  Once we receive a referral, our team will schedule an evaluation and help you decide what resources best fit your situation.

Have questions? Call Hospice of North Ottawa Community at (616) 846-2015 or Palliative Care at (616) 935-7853.



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