It’s one of the biggest myths that Carroll Hospital’s palliative care nurses face: the belief that palliative care is the same as hospice care.
Palliative care and hospice share the same core principles of providing patient- and family-centered care. But hospice is for individuals with a life expectancy of six months or less, says nurse practitioner Jenifer Garner.
Palliative care is for those who are facing serious illness, and it can be sought at any phase of that illness. It is especially helpful for individuals with hard-to-treat symptoms; for those who need help understanding treatment choices; and for individuals and families who need support when making difficult medical decisions.
Ultimately, the focus is on each patient’s well-being and quality of life. “To palliate means to free from suffering, and that’s the goal in both palliative and hospice care,” Garner says.
Simply put, palliative care is a holistic approach to caring for the whole patient, taking into account not only the person’s medical needs, but his or her emotional, physical and spiritual needs as well, says palliative care nurse Joanna Van Eckenhorn.
“We are an extra layer of support to help patients, as they live with chronic illness, have the best quality of life that they can possibly hope for in spite of their illness,” says palliative care nurse Jennifer Ballas.
Van Eckenhorn and Ballas visit with hospitalized patients to help them with their needs while they are in the hospital. Once discharged, individuals can receive additional assistance from outpatient palliative care nurse Laurie Luellen, who can continue to connect individuals with resources and support.
It’s all with the goal of providing comfort and care for the best life possible.