Do you have a terminally ill family member or loved one? Are you currently considering getting them end-of-life or palliative care? Are you unsure about the differences between these two types of healthcare services?

If so, this post is for you.

Here, we talk about some of the similarities between end-of-life and palliative care. More importantly, we also talk about the differences between the two so you’ll have an easier time deciding on the best type of care for your loved one.

What Is End-of-Life Care?

End-of-life care is the type of healthcare service administered to people who are already seriously ill, have been medically diagnosed as terminal, and are already in the last year of their life. This means they have been ascertained to be at the end-stage of an untreatable disease and have only a few months to live.

For legal and healthcare purposes, end-of-life care is usually administered to seriously ill patients with a prognosis of six months or less (should the disease follow its natural course). However, since death is impossible to predict, some people may receive end-of-life care for many months and even years.

The purpose of end-of-life care is to ensure the patient is able to live as well as possible for as long as they are alive, and to die with dignity.

What Is Palliative Care?

For individuals who have a serious or life-threatening disease, are not treatable, or whose disease progression can no longer be reversed, palliative care is a recommended treatment option.

The objective of palliative care is not to treat a disease but to control or manage its symptoms – whether its onset and progression are slow or fast. This specialized medical care focuses on providing the patient relief from the symptoms and stress that come with suffering from a serious illness.

A palliative care plan is meant to help the patient live their best life possible under the circumstances and to provide support for their loved ones. It encompasses all aspects of the patient’s life, including addressing their and their family’s or caregivers’ social, spiritual, and psychological needs.

Palliative care may be administered to people at any stage of a serious illness. A patient can receive palliative care upon diagnosis or while still undergoing curative treatment.

If a patient reaches the end-stage of a disease or the prognosis is grim (they might pass away anytime or within a few months), the latter part of the patient’s palliative care would be dedicated to end-of-life care measures.

Are End-of-Life Care and Palliative Care the Same?

The goals of both palliative care and end-of-life care are relieving the pain, increasing the comfort, and improving the quality of life of the patient. They are provided by a qualified team of professionals and consider the patient’s (and their caregivers’) personal preferences, values, cultural and religious beliefs. However, end-of-life and palliative care are not one and the same thing.

  • End-of-life care is meant for people who have been diagnosed with a terminal illness and may only have six months or less to live.
  • Although palliative care may include end-of-life care, there are also some patients who receive palliative care at earlier stages of their illness or while still being treated for their condition.
  • End-of-life care is intended for people who have made a decision to stop curative treatments and receive comfort care during the last few months (or less) of their life.
  • Palliative care is typically administered in a hospital setting, and the service is usually provided by a palliative care-trained physician or nurse practitioner.
  • Patients who receive end-of-life care usually do so at home or in a nursing home, assisted living facility, or hospice. Comfort care is administered through the concerted efforts of a physician, nurse practitioner, a specialist occupational therapist or physiotherapist, nurse, social worker, home health aide, spiritual guidance or support counselor, hospice staff, and volunteers.

Planning Ahead

Although you may be thinking about palliative and end-of-life care for your loved one, planning ahead for your future care is also crucial.

You can start as early as now to arrange for these matters to cover various legal issues that may arise should you experience a prolonged debilitating disease or become critically ill. Moreover, by planning for your care, your wishes can still be carried out through your legally authorized representatives in the event you become incapacitated.

If you need more resources about palliative and end-of-life care, please visit our resources page.