Author(s): McAteer R
Palliative care improves the quality of life for patients with a life-threatening illness and for their families. It aims to relieve suffering by identifying, assessing, and treating pain and other physical, psychosocial, and spiritual problems. Palliative care can be provided whether an illness is potentially curable, chronic, or life-threatening; is appropriate for patients with noncancer diagnoses1; and can be administered in conjunction with curative-aimed therapies at any stage of the illness. Hospice is a type of palliative care provided when curative treatment is no longer beneficial or desired, and when life expectancy is measured in months or less. It supports patients and their families while focusing on symptom relief and comfort. Despite documented benefits, palliative care is underutilized in the management of advanced or terminal illnesses. It is estimated that more than 1 million deaths (or 45% of all deaths in the United States) in 2011 occurred in patients who were in a hospice program.2 Although this represents a gradual upward trend, 36% of those patients died or were discharged within seven days of admission, and nearly two-thirds (63%) received hospice care for less than one month.