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October 2011, Volume 41 Number 10 , p 16 - 17


  • Harleah G. Buck PhD, RN, CHPN


SEVERAL YEARS AGO, I sat in a professional presentation titled Patien t's Perceptions of Palliative Care. The presenter had conducted a research project that involved assessing what older adults with chronic illness such as diabetes or heart failure knew about palliative care. Her primary finding was that most respondents had no idea what the term "palliative care" even meant. As part of her presentation she replayed (with the respondents' permission) some comments. My favorite was from an older patient who responded, "Pally-what?" Her audience broke out into laughter. That comment stuck with me.Palliative care suffers from an identity crisis. Some clinicians use the word palliative as a synonym for hospice. Others use the word to define a distinct type of care, different from aggressive care or hospice care. But most people would probably agree with that patient: "Pally-what?"The National Consensus Project for Quality Palliative Care, a task force of the Hospice and Palliative Care Coalition, defines palliative care as both a system and a philosophy of care that focuses on the prevention and relief of suffering by improving quality of life, functional status, decision making, and personal growth for patients and families.1 At its simplest, palliative care is a patient- and family-centered type of care for people with life-limiting illnesses for whom quality of life is the major focus.Unlike hospice, palliative care is need-driven, not life expectancy-driven. Any patient with a serious, life-threatening or debilitating illness can access palliative care.The Joint Commission now offers accredited hospitals the option of seeking advanced certification in palliative care. The standards for the new program became available in July 2011 at . To achieve certification, the hospital must show proof of a formal, organized, expert, interdisciplinary palliative care team, endorsement and support of the leadership,

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