SSM Health Explains the Difference Between Palliative and Hospice Care

You’ve likely heard of hospice and palliative care, but may not know the difference between the two. This type of care is often misunderstood, says Dr. Tim Jessick, chief medical officer, SSM Health At Home.

“This is about a type of care delivery,” says Dr. Jessick. “You’re providing the right care for the patient at the right time.”

Dr. Jessick explains that palliative care “is an interdisciplinary team approach to caring for patients and their families that have chronic, serious or life-limiting illnesses. So, we care for folks that may have several years to live and are still receiving curative treatment, but we help manage symptoms [such as] pain, nausea, vomiting and those types of things.”

Hospice care is appropriate for those who have six months or less to live, and “whose focus is comfort and spending as much time at home as possible,” he explains.

Dr. Jessick stresses that besides each patient’s medical status, their wishes and goals are the most important area that SSM’s care team talks through with a patient and their family. If a loved one ends up needing palliative or hospice care, Dr. Jessick encourages patients and families to connect with their care team and ask questions.

“Asking your doctor and [care] team questions to know what’s possible, what’s not possible and then to feel empowered to say, ‘Well, I’m going to make decisions that best serve me and my family.’”

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