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Palliative care: Sooner may be better

Updated: February 01, 2011

Early introduction of palliative care (well before hospice) improves mood and quality of life — and may help people live longer.

Hospice and palliative care are often talked about as if they are the same thing, but they're not. Hospice is for people who are expected to live for a short time (usually defined as six months or less) who have agreed to stop getting treatment aimed at prolonging life. Palliative care is medical care that aims to relieve pain or suffering and, more generally, to improve a person's quality of life during a serious illness. Palliative care is certainly a major component of hospice care, especially the efforts to relieve pain, but it's not limited to hospice. People who are actively being treated for a disease can receive palliative care at any stage of their illness.

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