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Thu, Aug 10, 2017 at 12:00 AM

Clearing up confusion about hospice and palliative care

Many people are confused when it comes to hospice care – what it offers, when it should be used and where the care is delivered.

That is why Marsha Farrell spends her time teaching groups about hospice in hopes of making it a little less frightening. 

“Hospice is for anyone of any age with limited life prognosis,” she explained to Marshall Cancer Care Center’s support group LIFE, Lean In For Encouragement. 

Farrell, a hospice educator, worked as a nurse for 37 years before becoming a consultant. Nursing schools in the 1970s did not teach anything about death and dying. Fortunately, now it is a specialty known as palliative care, despite the fact that seven out of 10 people have never heard the word. 

It comes from a combination of two words. Palliate means to make better and hostel is a place to recover. 

“So palliative care is all about living,” she said. “It’s all about taking care of living people.”

What is the difference between hospice and palliative care? 

“The purpose of both is quality of life,” she said. “It’s looking at the whole person.”

Palliative care is a medical specialty for people with a serious illness. It focuses on pain control, symptoms and management of the illness. Most palliative care is done in a hospital. 

Hospice goes to wherever the patient lives, whether at home or in a nursing home. It is for those with six months or less to live. 

Farrell recommended people interview three hospices before choosing one. Ask questions, such as:

  • How often will my loved one be seen by staff?
  • How many staff members will be working on weekends?
  • Will a staff member be available to sit with a patient who is ‘actively’ dying?

“Everybody does things differently,” Farrell said. “Choose on that fits you best.”

Marshall Cancer Care Center’s LIFE group is open to all cancer survivors. It meets on the second Tuesday of each month at noon in the classroom of the Professional Center next door to the Marshall Cancer Care Center, just south of Cracker Barrel in Guntersville. Lunch is provided and there is no charge. A reservation is required and can be made by calling (256)571-8000.

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