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Understanding Palliative Care

Posted on Wednesday, December 9, 2015 by UVM Health Network - CVMC

What is your perception of palliative care? Some people learn about palliative care through conversations or experiences with family and friends, the media or internet articles, or independent searches for personal reasons.

With technology at our fingertips, it’s easier than ever to look up a definition for this type of medical care. Despite the magnitude of resources available, there continues to be widespread misunderstanding about what palliative care means, and what it provides.

Palliative Care Is Not Hospice Care

Palliative Care is a specialized branch of medical care focused on providing patients with relief from the symptoms, pain, and stress of a serious illness – whatever the diagnosis may be. It is appropriate to provide palliative care at any age and at any stage of serious illness.

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Many people tend to mix up palliative care and hospice care. Although they share the same goals for supporting optimal quality of life in serious illness, there are key differences. 

  • Palliative care can be provided alongside curative therapies and can be beneficial for those who experience side effects from certain treatments or need supportive care.
  • Hospice care is designed to give supportive care to people in the final stage of a terminal illness. The focus of care is primarily on comfort and quality of life, rather than curing the underlying illness.
  • Hospice programs are generally home based but can sometimes be provided in other locations such as nursing homes or hospitals.
  • In the hospital, a palliative care consult can be requested by the hospitalist, patient, and/or family. Each consult is individualized based on the patient and family needs. The palliative care team assists with discharge planning if needed, symptom management, and provision of spiritual and psychosocial support.

Spiritual Care

CVMC’s spiritual care counselor is a member of the Palliative Care team, and works alongside the palliative specialists to support patients and their families. Spiritual distress can be triggered by illness, major life changes and hospital admissions.

Some examples of spiritual distress can include:

  • questioning the meaning of life and purpose of illness
  • questioning of one’s own belief system
  • withdrawal from, or loss of relationships
  • expressions of anxiety, anger and/or depression

We’re Here to Support You

Navigating through a serious or debilitating illness can be challenging. At CVMC, the Palliative Care team provides consultations designed to provide an extra layer of support for you and your family, and to help support communication within your team of providers. If you or a loved one receives a consultation with one of our palliative care specialists, take advantage of the time and space to discuss your stressors, needs and goals. 

If you are interested in learning more about the Department of Palliative and Spiritual Care at CVMC, go to:


Location: Offices on Second Floor of CVMC Main Hospital
Palliative Care: (802) 225-5800

For more information on Hospice Care, go to:


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