What is Palliative Care?

Facing complex medical or a life-limiting illness can be physically, emotionally, and spiritually challenging. Patients, families, and caregivers must deal with complex questions and choices about treatments, medications, and pain management. If a patient is actively engaged in aggressive, life-extending treatment for a progressive or incurable illness, but requires pain management or symptom control at home, our Palliative Care and Bridge Program may be a suitable choice for care. The Program focuses on the patient and family as a unit of care. Services provided include managing physical symptoms, as well as addressing clinical, medical, spiritual, emotional, and psychological issues. Patients are supported in their treatment goals, and discussion regarding appropriate care planning options is provided when appropriate. This care focus helps maximize quality of life and assists patients in a manner that helps them meet their personal goals. The Program seeks to help people live a high-quality life at each stage of their illness.

Appropriate Time for Palliative Care

Palliative care is appropriate whenever there is an underlying complex or life-threatening illness and there are distressing physical symptoms, such as pain and nausea; there are difficult decisions to be made concerning the most appropriate level of life-sustaining care; patients and/or families need assistance in coordinating care services; and the patient meets home health care criteria.

The Difference between Palliative Care and Hospice Care

Although the philosophies of care are identical (focus on quality of life, symptom control, patient and family as the unit of care, interdisciplinary care), there are differences in terms of eligibility, care settings, and reimbursement.
Palliative care is a home health care program with eligibility based on Medicare or private insurance homecare guidelines. It is designed to meet the needs of patients with complex and/or life-limiting illnesses who are receiving treatment. The key difference between hospice and palliative care is the qualitative difference of “active treatment.” Patients who choose the Palliative Care and Bridge Program are often dealing with symptoms related to the treatment they are receiving, such as chemotherapy. Pain and symptom management are the hallmarks of this program. The priorities of the team are to advocate for quality care through the treatment process and to address issues related to the physical and emotional well being of the patient and family.

Patients may be discharged from this program when symptoms subside or if they have reached a plateau in their treatment. Some patients remain on the Palliative Care and Bridge Program and, if appropriate, bridge to a hospice program. This means that active treatment has been completed and the goal is comfort. Their symptoms may still require interventions, but aggressive treatment is completed.

To Refer or for further information, please call our Intake Department at (781) 338-7900.