Setting up long-term care, or end-of-life care, can be confusing and stressful, during a time when families are already dealing with so much.

Dr. Helen Kao, MD., the Director of Clinical Innovations at Lumina Hospice and Palliative Care, joined KATU to help with answers that can help you or a loved one.

“Palliative care is a specialty of medicine where our focus is on relieving the suffering that patients feel, as well as their families and caregivers. And that’s suffering of any kind— we’re not just talking about pain,” said Dr. Kao.

She also took time to explain the difference between palliative and hospice care.

“[Hospice] is a program of services that is intended to support the well-being of individuals who have a life expectancy of roughly 6 months or less,” Dr. Kao said. “The difference from palliative care is that in hospice care the intent is to support individuals who are no longer seeking what we call curative or disease-modifying care.”

Dr. Kao said there are several benefits to having early hospice referrals.

“As I said, hospice is for individuals with six months or less, but many individuals can be on hospice for more than six months, in some cases, because as physicians we are not perfect at prognostication,” said Dr. Kao.

“The longer someone is on hospice, they spend less time in the emergency room, less time in the hospital, which is what most people want at their end of life,” she continued. “And they have better control of their suffering.”

You can support hospice and palliative care providers by donating to the Oregon Nonprofit Hospice Alliance.

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