The terms palliative care, comfort care, and hospice care are often used interchangeably and vaguely. While their applications may overlap and may all exist on a care journey, they are not the same. CaringInfo can help you sort these terms out and make choices that are right for you. Learn how to plan for medical care that fits into your life, your values, and your wishes.
It can be helpful to think of your care journey on a continuum. When you receive a diagnosis, you would likely opt for curative medical interventions. You would introduce palliative care to ensure you are as comfortable as possible as treatment continues and your symptoms may get more severe. Then, when a cure is no longer possible – for the final period of life – hospice is the preferred type of care, which includes bereavement support for those closest to you.
What is Curative or Therapeutic Care?
Curative or therapeutic care refers in part to treatments and therapies provided to a patient with the main intent of fully resolving an illness or condition. The terms are also used for treatments that delay disease progression even when a cure is not possible. Examples include chemotherapy for cancer, total joint replacement, and physical therapy. It is important to understand the risks and benefits of any curative or therapeutic care so you can make the best choices for you and your life.
What is Palliative Care?
Palliative care is often misunderstood. It is for people at any stage of illness, whether life-threatening or not. Palliative care is focused on easing pain and discomfort and helping people enjoy everyday life. Palliative care can be and usually is provided along with curative care.
What is Hospice Care?
Hospice care focuses on quality of life when a cure is no longer possible, or the burdens of treatment outweigh the benefits. Hospice care is a team-oriented approach to expert medical care, pain management, and emotional and spiritual support expressly tailored to the patient’s and family/inner circle’s wishes and needs. It can be provided in any setting.
What is Comfort Care?
Comfort care is defined as care that is focused on symptom control, pain relief, and quality of life. Confusingly, the term is often used interchangeably with palliative care and hospice care—it may be part of either one but doesn’t accurately describe the entire offering of either.
What is Bereavement Care?
There are many ways to get support after suffering a loss and it is important that we do. Many hospices offer formal programs in bereavement care that are open to the community. Additionally, there are excellent websites, online and real communities, and a variety of other resources that can help.