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National Hospice and Palliative Care Month
November, 2021

November is National Hospice and Palliative Care Month. Hospice and Palliative Care programs nationwide are reaching out to raise awareness!

This year’s theme is “It’s About How You Live.” We embrace this year’s theme and as a Hospital and community we are proud to make our patients and their families as physically, spiritually, and emotionally comfortable as possible.

What Is Hospice and Palliative Care?

Hospice and palliative care have both existed for decades. Though they can be given to the same patient at once, it’s essential to understand that they are two distinct care modalities.

Today, more than 1.4 million people are living in hospice care facilities in the U.S. alone. Hospice facilities can function in various ways, but they share one key objective: improving the quality of life for each patient in their care.

Nurse and Patient

What is the philosophy behind hospice care?

Hospice is a philosophy for end-of-life care rather than a specific practice or place. For patients who no longer pursue curative treatment and want to spend their final days at peace and in comfort, hospice should provide patients and their caregivers with as much support as possible.

Hospice ensures that patients can live their life how they want, where they want, and with whom they desire.

Hospice Nurse

Understanding Palliative Care

Like hospice care, palliative care focuses on the person behind the illness rather than solely on the illness itself, and on the quality of life for individuals with severe, life-altering diseases.

The difference is that, unlike hospice care, it can help anyone with a significantly debilitating illness regardless of prognosis. Patients can even receive palliative care while other ongoing treatments are being applied.

Hospice and Palliative Care Make a Difference

There are many ways hospice and palliative programs help people:

  • Hospice and palliative care professionals work to remedy symptoms, including pain and shortness of breath, to maintain quality of life.
  • Emotional and spiritual support is also a key component of hospice and palliative care, giving patients and their loved ones the caring support they need to maintain the parts of their life that are most meaningful to them personally.

A Historical Look at Palliative and Hospice Care


The word “hospice” first began being used in the mid-1800s to describe caring for dying patients by Mrs. Jeanne Garnier, the Founder of the Dames du Calvaire in Lyon France.



A small group of widows in New York, inspired by the work of the Women of Calvary (Dames de Calvaire), who cared for destitute women in France with terminal diseases, decided to do the same in New York City. They took care of the women first in their own homes, then in two brownstone houses on Perry Street in Greenwich Village


Palliative care began with a focus on the care of the dying. Dr. Cicely Saunders first articulated her ideas about modern hospice care in the late 1950s based on the careful observation of dying patients. She advocated that only an interdisciplinary team could relieve the “total pain” of a dying person in the context of his or her family, and the team concept is still at the core of palliative care.

Matthew J. Loscalzo, Hematology Am Soc Hematol Educ Program (2008) 2008 (1): 465. https://ashpublications.org/hematology/article/2008/1/465/95868/Palliative-Care-An-Historical-Perspective

Frequently Asked Questions about Palliative and Hospice Care – Answered by Experts

Q: How have Palliative and Hospice Care changed over the past 20 years?

A: One important but little-known fact is that life is often extended and improved through hospice and palliative care modalities. Predictions regarding the time that remains for a patient following a diagnosis of a life-limiting illness can be elusive, mysterious, and often not important.

The goal of hospice is to increase comfort and quality of life.

Ten years ago, there was a fascinating study that came out of Harvard that took stage-4 cancer patients at the onset of their treatment and provided them with palliative care. One group received state-of-the-art treatment the other had the same treatment plus palliative care.

This study demonstrated that the positive effect of palliative care and hospice services should not be underestimated.

Christopher P. Comfort, MD
Christopher P. Comfort, MD
Chief Operating Officer

Q: What is Hospice Care?

A: The National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization define Hospice as a “health care system of interdisciplinary services provided to patients and their families during the final stage of life.” It is important to understand; Hospice is a philosophy of care rather than a physical place.

Hospice care is comprehensive interdisciplinary care provided within the last six months of a person’s life. Hospice care is patient-directed and is designed to assist the patient in maintaining comfort, dignity, and quality of life.

The primary difference between home care, palliative care, and hospice care is the goal of the service. People come into a traditional home care program like Calvary’s Certified Home Health Agency to get better after a serious illness or surgery.

The anticipated goal is that the patients’ pre-illness status will be achieved. Others require palliative services to remain pain-free and comfortable. Finally, hospice services are provided in instances where recovery is not possible, and the patient is expected to have less than six months of life left.

Nancy S. D’Agostino, RN, MSN, CHPN
Vice President of Community patient Services

Q: What is Palliative Care?

A: The goal of palliative care is quality of life for patients and their families. Palliative care offers comfort, pain relief, and symptom management for patients with serious illnesses. Anyone with severe disease, chronic, or life-threatening disease can receive palliative care regardless of age or stage of illness. Palliative care can be utilized at any point in a person’s life.

Thirty years ago, when a person heard the term palliative care, that usually meant that that person was doing poorly and there may not be anything more medical science could offer. Luckily, that concept has matured.

Nowadays, palliative care is increasingly being chosen by patients while they’re pursuing curative care options.

Kathleen Lynch, RN
Kathleen Lynch, RN
Administrator of Admitting, Intake & Outreach Services

Related Resources

icon bookAdvance care planning is an ongoing discussion about your health care goals, values, and wishes for the future.

Calvary Hospital encourages you to start a dialog with your family, friends and medical team about your future health care preferences.

icon headphonesHealth and Well Being, Dr. Christopher Comfort – National Hospice and Palliative Care Month

For National Hospice and Palliative Care Month, WCBS Radio’s The Health and Well Being Report interviewed Dr. Comfort extensively.