Palliative Care Vs. End of Life Care

Learn key differences between palliative care and end of life care.

When a senior reaches the point in their life when death is going to be a soon-coming reality, perspectives quickly change. The focus is no longer on the temporal but the eternal, and healthcare challenges change from finding a cure to dying with dignity.

What is Palliative Care?

Palliative care literally refers to comfort care or the supports and services that are provided to individuals who have serious illnesses or injuries in order to lessen suffering. Palliative care can be started at any time and may be used in conjunction with treatments and therapies intended to cure an individual or restore their health. Should a person's condition worsen and become terminal, palliative care continues to provide comfort and support with a focus on eliminating pain and improving one's quality of life.

What is End of Life Care?

Once a condition turns for the worse and a decision has been made to cease curative treatments, end of life care may begin. End of life care typically prepares a person for a dignified death by addressing what caregivers refer to as the ABCD's of dying: attitudes, behaviors, compassion, and dialogue. Each person has a different perspective of death based on their culture, religion, place in life, family situation, and so forth. Being aware of and respecting a person's attitude toward death is a critical element of hospice care.

Seniors have different value systems and beliefs that impact their past, present, and future behaviors. While one senior may approach death in a celebratory manner and choose to have many visitors, another may be quite contemplative and choose to be alone. Behaviors may change as a senior goes through the process of accepting death, and caregivers must always be aware that there is no one right set of behaviors.

Despite a senior's beliefs, attitudes, and behavior's, everybody feels a sense of loss at the end. End of life caregivers must remember to be compassionate toward the senior and their family as they process the loss of a life, time, opportunity, etc.

Perhaps the most important piece of both the palliative care and end of life care puzzle is communication. Many times people do not know what to say to a senior who is dying, so they don't say anything. This leaves the senior feeling alone, isolated, anxious, and perhaps even fearful. Often conversations are held in the presence of the senior, but they are not included in the dialogue. Other times, decisions are made about care without talking to the senior. Both palliative care and end of life care providers strive to keep and open and compassionate dialogue with the senior and their family. Meaningful dialogue adds value to a person's life, increases self-worth, and plays a large part in the ultimate goal of maximizing a senior's quality of life.

For more information about Comfort Keepers end of life care and to learn how we can work with your palliative care provider, contact us today. 

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