What is the difference between palliative care and hospice care?

People often regard hospice care and palliative care in the same light, and although these two types of patient care do have a lot in common, it is useful to mention the differences.

The history of palliative care

While the concept of this type of care has a storied history, estimated to date as far back as 1065, when the ill and dying en route to and from the Holy Land were looked after in Malta, the first modern hospices were established by a British registered nurse who dedicated her life to medical social work. Dame Cicely Saunders recognised the need for a patient-centred, holistic approach for patients with terminal conditions, which was rooted in a belief that every human being should live with a “sense of fulfilment and a readiness to let go”.

Saunders’ model took into account all the needs of patients who face the end of their lives and, as such, the palliative care provided at modern hospices focuses on physical distress, as well as emotional and spiritual issues, with maximum comfort for the patient being the ultimate goal.

How palliative care and hospice care are different

Palliative care refers to the management of the symptoms associated with chronic and life threatening illness, while also helping patients and their loved ones deal with the psychological and emotional aspects associated with a serious diagnosis.

Palliative care, according to the World Health Organization’s definition thereof, neither aims to hasten or postpone death, rather focusing on enhancing a patient’s quality of life. Palliative care may be provided early in the course of an illness, and is often given in conjunction with other therapies that focus on prolonging life, like radiation and chemotherapy.

Hospice care incorporates all the principles of palliative care into its practices from diagnosis of a life-threatening illness, but is more specifically focused on patients that have received a prognosis of six months or less to live. While palliative care can be provided at any stage of an illness, hospice care helps patients and their families to manage the end-of-life stage in particular.

How you can help

Since 1979 HospiceWits has taken a comprehensive, interdisciplinary approach to caring for patients in Johannesburg and Soweto. We believe in preserving the quality of life of our patients for as long as they need it, while also providing support to the loved ones of the patients in our care. Our more than 100 full-time staff includes the interdisciplinary team of nurses, doctors, psychologists, social workers and counsellors.

HospiceWits is a registered NPO, and we are fully reliant on fundraising efforts and donations to keep doing this important work. We invite corporates and individuals to support us by donating here.