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DEFINITION OF PALLIATIVE CARE

The model of palliative care was initially conceived of and developed in response to the needs of the cancer patient. Over time, the definition has evolved. It can be applied to any stage of illness from acute to chronic and its terminal phase.1 Therefore, the principles of palliative care can and should be applied early on throughout the continuum of patient care, including life-extending and curative treatments. Dr. Balfour Mount coined the term palliative care from the Latin word pallium, which referred to an outer garment that cloaked a person or object. The Latin derivation suggests that palliative care can effectively “cloak” the symptoms of serious illness.

The National Consensus Project for Quality Palliative Care (NCP) defines palliative care as “patient- and family-centered care that optimizes quality of life by anticipating, preventing, and treating suffering.” Palliative care throughout the continuum of illness involves addressing physical, intellectual, emotional, social, and spiritual needs of a patient. Additionally, the field facilitates patient autonomy, access to information, and medical decision-making. Palliative care encompasses all health care settings to include acute care hospitals, rehabilitation facilities, hospices, long-term care settings, ambulatory clinics, and community programs within home and/or hospice organizations. The services are offered by an interdisciplinary team consisting of physicians, nurses, social workers, chaplains, therapists, and other professionals.2

The Center to Advance Palliative Care (CAPC) defines palliative care (also known as palliative medicine) as specialized medical care for people with serious illness focused on providing patients with relief of symptoms, pain, and stress of a serious illness—whatever the diagnosis. The goal is to improve quality of life for both the patient and the family. Palliative care is provided by a team of doctors, nurses, and other specialists who work together with other members of the health care team to provide an extra layer of support. It is appropriate at any age and at any stage in a serious illness and can be provided along with curative treatment.3

The World Health Organization (WHO) defines palliative care as “an approach that improves quality of life of patients and their families facing the problems associated with life-threatening illness, through the prevention and relief of suffering by means of early identification and impeccable assessment and treatment of pain and other problems, physical, psychosocial, and spiritual.”4

Difference between Palliative Care and Hospice

According to the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization, hospice is considered to be the model for quality, compassionate care for patients facing a life-limiting illness or injury. Hospice care also involves a team-oriented approach to expert medical care, pain management, and emotional/spiritual support expressly tailored to the patient's needs and wishes. Support is provided to the patient's loved ones as well. At the center of hospice and palliative care is the belief that each of us has the right to die pain-free with dignity, and ...

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