Three Myths about Palliative Care

There are plenty of misconceptions about what palliative care is and isn’t. Those who are suffering with a medical diagnosis often wait to engage with a palliative care team or don’t know how it would benefit them or their family because of a lack of understanding. In the meantime, spiritual, psychosocial and medical needs may not be addressed. The award-winning Palliative Care team at Seniors At Home works with people of all ages who are experiencing health crises. Our goal is to alleviate suffering of the entire family. Here are three myths about Palliative Care.

Senior and visitor

Myth #1 – Palliative care is the same as hospice care.

False: Palliative care is not the same as hospice care although palliative care can be incorporated into hospice care. Hospice is a specialized medical team that provides care only to those with terminal conditions, whereas palliative care is not restricted to those at the end of life. Palliative care can be provided at any time during the course of a serious illness, starting from the day of diagnosis. A interdisciplinary palliative care team works with the patient, their family, and their healthcare providers to develop a plan that addresses medical, psychosocial, and spiritual needs.

Why do so many find support and relief through palliative care? For many, a health crisis can be a wake-up call and a time to re-evaluate values and priorities, and mortality. In a study about spiritual support in advanced cancer patients, 72 percent felt that the medical system did not support their spiritual needs at all, or only minimally.

Myth #2 Palliative care is only for people who have given up on treatment and are getting worse, not better.

False: “Palliative care is about relieving suffering at any stage of an illness,” says J. Redwing Keyssar, RN, Director of Palliative Care and Nursing Services at Seniors At Home. “It’s about helping people make choices that allow for the highest possible quality of life, whether they’re managing a chronic condition, like diabetes or arthritis, or dealing with a serious, perhaps life-limiting, illness.”

Palliative care looks at the whole patient. Their goals, needs and choices are addressed along with providing practical and emotional support, resources, and the coordination of healthcare providers. All these things provide assistance with the relief of pain and stress at any time during a serious illness.

Myth #3 – Palliative care is for pain and medical symptoms only.

False: Many patients receiving palliative care are currently engaged in aggressive treatment and having a palliative care team available to answer questions, triage with their doctors, and monitor their progress can lead to better outcomes and success in treatment and a better quality of life during the illness. In fact, the largest study on palliative care of its kind found that early palliative care led to significant improvements in both quality of life and mood while also lengthening life.

Become a Palliative Care Volunteer

This November, a 30-Hour Palliative Care Volunteer training will bring in a fresh cohort of caring volunteers to help families experiencing a serious illness. Volunteers provide respite for family members, assist with simple errands and tasks, or simply enjoy sitting in silence with someone who does not want to be alone. No previous medical training is required.

While most palliative care programs function under a medical model, the Seniors At Home program is unique in that it operates under a social service model and is available to anyone in the community – not just hospital patients.

Brenda Hutchinson, a current volunteer, believes that her bond with the client she currently visits has been life changing.  “I can’t imagine my life without this person, relationship and experience,” she says. “I am just profoundly grateful to be part of this program and to have met everyone involved over the years.”

Find out more and register for the training >

With further questions, call 415-449-3879 or email 

Learn more about Seniors At Home innovative Palliative Care Program >