Understanding Palliative Care

When it comes to a disease like ALS, quality of life is challenged on a regular basis as symptoms progress. Receiving treatments and developing a health care plan are important steps with ALS, but doing it alone can be difficult. Having someone help guide those decisions and work with you can make the world of a difference and it’s possible with programs like palliative care. Because palliative care can be hard to navigate, listed is basic information and how it’s different from hospice care.


Palliative care is a form of specialized care that focuses on symptom management for people with a life-limiting illness. Palliative care allows patients to receive treatment and manage their symptoms as their disease progresses sooner rather than later. Unlike hospice care, palliative care can be started at diagnosis, throughout treatment and during follow-up.

In addition to receiving treatment, individuals can receive palliative care that works with their primary physician. Quality of life and comfort care are the top priorities for palliative care. Those part of the palliative care team evaluate and educate based on the health care and treatment goals of the patient. Palliative care can prevent more frequent trips to the hospital as well.

Difference from Hospice Care

Palliative care can be confused with hospice care and the terms are often used interchangeably because both provide similar services. However, there are important differences between the two programs. Palliative care provides relief from the symptoms and stress of a serious or life-limiting disease while hospice care serves a broader audience. Palliative care also provides a more natural transition into hospice care which can be an intimidating step after diagnosis.

In palliative care, patients meet with someone from the palliative care team on a more frequent basis than a primary physician to discuss symptom management and advanced disease management while working alongside the patient to decide what is going to work best for them. This could also include the palliative care team member educating and discussing medication.

View the differences in hospice and palliative service at Heartland Care Partners

Because ALS is a disease that typically progresses between two to five years, it is difficult to determine when end-of-life care, or hospice care, should begin. Palliative care is an alternative for those who seek relief without using hospice care, acting as the bridge between the two. With ALS, a disease that can take years to progress, there is always someone there who can keep tabs and make things easier.

Benefits for People with ALS

If someone with ALS finds themselves taking frequent trips to the hospital or have developed complications beyond their management, palliative care can offer some relief. Progression of symptoms can place a heavy burden and stress that can also be relieved through palliative care.

When it comes time to decide what actions need to be taken for end-of-life care, palliative care aids in those hard decisions and helps people transition to whatever those choices are. This is also another way to expand resources to make those decisions. Palliative care also works with families during transition periods to make sure everyone is content with the health care plan of choice.

For more information on the ALS Association St. Louis Regional Chapter, visit http://www.alsa-stl.org.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s