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Palliative Care Can Improve Quality of Life

For people with chronic or terminal conditions


Palliative care and hospice care are health care terms that are sometimes used interchangeably. However, each describes very different kinds of care with different goals – although sometimes those goals intertwine with the other.

Learn more about palliative medical care, which types of patients and families may benefit from it and who to reach out to at Lehigh Valley Health Network (LVHN) for more information about palliative therapies offered by LVHN’s Optimizing Advanced Complex Illness Support (OACIS) palliative medicine program.

How is palliative care different from hospice?

Palliative care helps relieve long-term pain from disease and treatment. As a form of pain management and patient support, palliative care can be the best option for people dealing with chronic diseases including cancer, HIV/AIDS and joint problems. While both palliative care and hospice care are designed to improve quality of life, the two can easily be confused. Unlike hospice, palliative care can be given alongside regular treatment – meaning this kind of specialized care may begin at any time throughout treatment and be recommended for a wide range of curative plans, with no ending timeframe. Hospice provides comfort care to terminally ill patients once treatment has stopped and is available only when a person has fewer than six months to live.

Palliative care has been shown to significantly improve patients’ and their families’ quality of life and mood (Temel, 2010).

If palliative care doesn’t cure the disease, how does it help?

Palliative treatment targets physical, psychological, spiritual and practical problems. Physical problems include pain, trouble sleeping and loss of appetite. Treatment for these symptoms may involve medication, physical or occupational therapy and/or nutritional guidance. Personal support can be for both the patient and family and often involves counseling, support groups and assistance with understanding complex medical issues. Chaplains can also be a part of palliative care to relieve spiritual concerns.

Who is a candidate for palliative care?

Patients of all ages and stages of illness are eligible for palliative care. You will not stop receiving care from your primary doctor, but you may gain care from another specialist. In some cases, your care may not be received from a doctor or nurse, but instead from a non-clinical professional. Dietitians, social workers, psychologists, chaplains and even massage therapists can provide specialized palliative care.

How do I begin palliative care?

It is important that your palliative care team works with your doctors in order to understand your current treatment, symptoms and goals. To get started, talk to your doctor for a referral to Lehigh Valley Health Network’s OACIS Palliative Medicine program. Learn more at

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