2014 Campus News: Palliative Care Program

2014 Campus News: Palliative Care Program

When To Introduce Palliative Care

Gil-Pires, Dr. ElisaCheck the dictionary for a definition of palliative medicine and you’ll find this: “soothing, alleviating, sedative, and calmative; for the terminally ill.” But, isn’t that what hospice is? While palliative care has evolved from the hospice movement, there are important distinctions between the two care models.

How is palliative care different from hospice?

First, in order to receive hospice care, a person must be diagnosed as having only six months or less to live. Palliative care, on the other hand, can be introduced far earlier, at any point during a life-limiting illness – with the emphasis on optimizing quality of life throughout the entire course of illness. Second, although the choice is made to forgo aggressive or invasive treatments, many medical treatments and procedures can be delivered right alongside palliative care. It is not “giving up.”

The take-off point

Pediatricians are excellent at helping new parents anticipate and prepare for expected challenges in their infant’s growth. In a similar way, palliative care team members can help patients and their families cope with the inevitable challenges of life limiting illness. “The team can focus on anticipating, preventing, and treating suffering, not just the immediate presenting symptoms,” explains Dr. Gil-Pires, Vice President, Medical Affairs/Medical Director at the Charles E. Smith Life Communities. “This approach helps people make the best care decisions.”

What is palliative care?

Focusing on quality of life, delivering compassionate care, and honoring personal preferences are at the core of the care that Charles E. Smith Life Communities provides to all residents. When there is serious illness and the diagnosis is life limiting, the focus shifts beyond curing to comfort, and it is here that palliative care adds a new dimension to the care plan. 

  • The physician spends more time with the resident and family, setting goals and embracing what is truly most important to the resident.
  • Palliative care focuses on easing pain, stress, and anxiety. 
  • Palliative care can help manage symptoms of pain, shortness of breath, cardiac issues, psychological distress, fear, depression, and personal grief, and address spiritual needs and questions.


At Charles E. Smith Life Communities, palliative care is delivered by a multidisciplinary team including board-certified palliative care specialists. This team includes the resident’s physician, nurses, specialists, a rabbi, pastoral associates, therapists, pharmacists, social workers, family and friends—all working together. The team can help families work through the questions they may have, such as What are my options? How do I cope? Whom do I call?  and create a custom care plan that matches the resident’s needs and desires and promotes a sense of empowerment and ease.2014 Symposium on Palliative Care

In order to encourage discussion and share knowledge on this fast-growing field in medicine, Charles E. Smith Life Communities sponsored an educational symposium on May 2, 2014: Palliative Care: Yesterday’s Promises, Today’s Challenges and Solutions. Dr. Joan Teno of Brown University delivered the keynote address and moderated a case study discussion. The event was co-sponsored by Sibley Memorial Hospital, a member of Johns Hopkins Medicine, supported by Optum Palliative and Hospice Care, and arranged in partnership with Suburban Hospital, a member of Johns Hopkins Medicine. Find presentations online.


While all hospice care is palliative, not all palliative care is hospice.
Dr. Elisa Gil-Pires


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