Horoscopes have achieved a bedrock position in popular culture. Nearly every popular magazine and advice column, and often even the occasional newspaper, offers the dubious astrological (not astronomical – there is a vast difference!) advice for the sake of personal outlook and future planning. Horoscopes deal in the realm of human desires, dishing up lines especially about romantic and financial hopes and dreams. Comedian Chris Rock once highlighted the humor of horoscopes in a song parodying the popular 1999 “Sunscreen” song with lyrics that go: “Here’s a horoscope for everyone: Aquarius, you’re gonna die. Capricorn, you’re gonna die. Gemini, you’re gonna die twice! Leo, you’re gonna die…” What Rock made a joke from was the notion that horoscopes really cannot predict the future based on the stars. At least if they do, it’s accidental, or at best, a strange coincidence.
Care in the Midst of a Serious Diagnosis
A medical diagnosis, however is a world of difference apart from the “science” of horoscopes. Physicians and teams of medical scientists can look at constellations of symptoms, run tests, and determine what has gone awry with the human body – and what that might mean for the future. A diagnosis (what’s wrong) accompanied by a prognosis (what that might mean for the future) can be helpful to patients when considering needs and goals for the immediate and long term future.
When a serious diagnosis is accompanied by a difficult or even terminal prognosis (that life is likely to end in six months or less), one of the best options a patient and their loved ones have is hospice and palliative care. Hospice and palliative care are among the most helpful resources patients can seek out after a difficult diagnosis. But in order to understand how best to avail patients of these resources, it is important to understand the difference between them.
You Will Hurt. Palliative Care Will Help.
A diagnosis (what’s wrong) is often accompanied by treatment (a way of treating what’s wrong), and treatment can include varying measures of pain and discomfort. For example, to treat a cancer diagnosis, chemotherapy, or taking cancer-killing chemicals into the body, can cause a whole host of uncomfortable side effects while it does its work. Nausea, vomiting, exhaustion, and pain are just a fraction of the potential effects of chemotherapy. When receiving a diagnosis that is not explicitly terminal (meaning death could be imminent within six months or less), palliative care for cancer patients can help manage any discomfort or suffering that treatment can bring. Palliative care does not automatically denote “end-of-life care.”
Palliative care can help, in that the sole focus of the palliative care team is to treat patient symptoms. “Palliative” comes from the Latin word for “cloaking,” so the purpose of palliative care is to “put a cloak over,” or “diminish” and “hide” symptoms so patients can live as well and comfortably as possible. It is an adjunct to other forms of traditional medical care, meaning that while an oncology specialist treats the cancer itself, the palliative care physician teams up with the oncologist to treat the cancer-related symptoms and treatment-related symptoms.
Palliative care is not curative care, palliative care is comfort care – which can, in fact, produce a calmer environment of well-being for patients which may indeed result indirectly in curative effects! Patients who receive palliative care may recover more comfortably and completely from their illness or injury and go on to live many years more. Palliative care is not meant to always be linked with hospice care. Palliative care provides relief for those ill with chronic or terminal disease and injury and there is no time limit for patients to avail themselves of the benefits of palliative care.
Dying is Inevitable. Hospice and Palliative Care Can Support You.
Hospice care is, on the other hand, explicitly for patients who have received a terminal prognosis (six months or less of life is the likely outcome of a diagnosis), and hospice nearly always partners with palliative care providers.
While the goal of palliative care are to provide support to any place and at any time, hospice frequently relies on family or other close relationships to provide immediate care for patients in concert with a visiting hospice nurse. A hospice care team includes physicians, nurses, therapists, spiritual caregivers, volunteers, and patient family members to create a plan of care for terminal patients. If patients choose to remain in their home for the last season of life, family members become the primary caregivers with the assistance of the hospice team. There will be greater round-the-clock involvement from hospice should patients choose to spend their final days in a hospital or nursing facility.
Hospice Partners With Palliative Care
Hospice care does not focus on curing illness or injury. Instead, hospice partners with palliative care providers to help hospice patients achieve levels of comfort which allow them to focus on the relational, emotional, spiritual, and practical matters of the end-of-life process. Partnered with hospice, palliative care will help with pain management involved in the dying process and hospice will assist with the actual comprehensive experience, to include the biological, psychological, social, and spiritual aspects of death and dying.
Palliative care can stand on its own, should a patient need it to manage the effects of a diagnosis. Hospice care, however, is always linked with palliative care, because the dying process demands high-quality pain and symptom management in the final season of life – a demand which hospice and palliative care, together, is pleased to offer patients.
Contact Harbor Light Hospice For More Information
For more information about hospice and palliative care and choosing which one – or both – that is right for you or for your loved one, please contact Harbor Light Hospice by sending us a message online or give us a call for a free and private consultation.