Breaking the Stigma Around Hospice and Palliative Care


Hospice and palliative care were created only for those who are dying or near death.


Hospice and palliative care were created to support the patient and their loved ones, and to relieve the pain and issues stemming from their condition, disease, or ailment.

It’s become common to label both hospice and palliative care as something synonymous with impending death. And with that, the choice to enter these kinds of care can feel like a bleak option, rather than one of comfort. But the truth is hospice and palliative care are incredibly beneficial to patients and loved ones during some of the most difficult moments in life — so much so that early access to palliative services is recommended by The World Health Organization. To break the stigma we first need to learn why it exists, what contributes to it, and how we can do our part to reduce negative feelings around hospice and palliative care.

While hospice and palliative care are often associated with one another, they are different and operate separately. The goal of palliative care is to alleviate pain, symptoms, and other stress caused by serious illness. Its benefits provide relief during long-term disease or illness but it is not a permanent choice in a patient’s life. Alternatively, hospice is focused on improving a patient’s quality of life and reducing suffering when experiencing an advanced, life-limiting illness. It provides comfort and support to the patient, and also the family and loved ones, during their last phases of life. Studies have even shown that patients in hospice care live longer, including this one published in 2010 by The New England Journal of Medicine.

And although they differ in the types of patients treated, both kinds of care share a similar struggle due to the stigmas surrounding them including delayed entry and late referrals. Delayed entry into care can stem from a patient or their loved ones having negative feelings about hospice or palliative care, but can also occur when a provider doesn’t refer a patient as soon as they should. Late referrals are often due to a lack of knowledge from the patient, family, provider, or palliative care team. A lack of understanding of hospice or palliative care may delay treatment, but can also prolong the suffering of a patient.

So what steps can we take to reduce the stigmas that surround hospice and palliative care? There needs to be a coordinated effort to educate the public on how beneficial these kinds of care can truly be. That includes reaching prospective patients and their families, but also providers like oncologists to integrate it into their programs, as well as hospice and palliative care teams themselves to review their own referral criteria better.

It’s imperative to create a sense of compassion, relief, and security around hospice and palliative care, starting with education and awareness. By acknowledging the proven benefits of this care, we can work together to reduce the stigmas associated with it.

If you or a loved one are considering hospice or palliative care, we can help. Reach out today at or (607) 334-3556.

Hospice Care

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