The Role of Hospice Care in Pain Management

When choosing between hospital-based palliative or hospice care program, how can a physician know which one will provide the most benefit to the patient? And further, what constitutes a quality palliative team? And: how does one choose an outstanding hospice? A recent article in the Journal of the American Medical Association attempts to clarify the choices.(1) Today, physicians and patients can access over 1,400 hospital-based palliative care programs and there are now well over 4,700 hospice care programs in the United States.

The reason for this expansion is to hospice in westminster accommodate an aging population living with chronic illnesses; and, simply, a cure is not always possible. The good news is that these programs provide options to patients, and understanding the options allows families to make informed decisions about hospice and palliative care. This will be especially important to the 76 million baby boomers as they confront end-of-life issues for their parents as well as for themselves. Physicians have been trained to make objective, well-thought-out decisions regarding end-of-life care for their patients. Choosing between a hospital-based palliative care team and a traditional hospice care approach will depend on the needs and desires of the patient as well as the disease trajectory.

A good place for physicians to start is by learning what each option can offer, what to expect from each, and what guidelines should be used in choosing a program. But first, the physician should determine the patient’s preferences regarding quality of life to help clarify mutual end-of-life goals. (Read more about why it’s important to work with the patient’s doctor regarding hospice and palliative care at the end of life.) In my next article, I will continue an exploration of this topic, including how physicians can help determine the quality of a hospice agency before making a referral to a patient, and a basic look at the similarities and differences between hospice care and palliative care in the hospital and home environments. Celebrating Life! Audrey Wuerl