Palliative & Hospice Care Resources

Learn about the difference between palliative and hospice care at UNM Health and discover how to best help your patients who need those services.

What are Palliative Care & Hospice Care?

Palliative care helps patients improve their quality of life, reduce symptoms and deal with anxiety and depression even as the patients receive treatment to cure a disease or slow its progression. Hospice care also helps keep patients comfortable, but is specially designed for terminally ill people in the last six months of life.

For both palliative care and hospice care, a team of professional caregivers may include doctors, nurses, pharmacists, social workers, chaplains, child life specialists and counselors.

What is the Mariposa Program?

The Mariposa Program through UNM Children’s Hospital provides direct, in-home hospice care to families of dying children within 60 miles of Albuquerque. The team offers support to hospices, primary care providers and home health agencies caring for families in other areas of New Mexico. Our goal is for every terminally ill child in the state to get comprehensive palliative and hospice care.

How Can I Help My Hospice Care Patients?

Though the hospice care medical director will care for your patient, research shows most people want to hear information about their condition from their physician. Your relationship with the patient and family allows you to discuss sensitive, end-of-life issues in a caring, personal way.

Help your patients by:

  • Overseeing care to ensure continuity and assist them in reaching their goals for quality of life.
  • Discussing end-of-life goals with the patient and family (including do-not-resuscitate orders, when appropriate). Patients and families may hesitate to talk to a specialist about the idea their child may die because they fear the doctor may “give up on them.”
  • Facilitating communication between the parent and the child, including the child in the discussion as much as possible. Terminally ill children are usually aware of their prognoses, even if they hide that knowledge from adults. Children feel less isolated if they can share their concerns.
  • Listening compassionately to families’ fears and concerns and answering their questions fully and respectfully.
  • Giving explanations in clear, simple language, recognizing that you may have to give the same explanation several times.
  • Accepting cultural and religious perspectives about illness and death that may be different from your own.
  • Acknowledging the child's and family's strengths.
  • Not hiding your own feelings to protect the family.They will appreciate that you care.

Questions to Ask Your Palliative Care Patients

When you see patients who receive palliative care, ask them or their families:

  • What have the doctors told you?
  • How do you think things are going?
  • What do you expect to happen?
  • What do you hope to get out of this treatment/hospitalization?