What Is Palliative Care?

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Palliative care is an approach to medical care that focuses on improving the quality of life for patients facing serious illness or end of life. The goal of palliative care is to prevent or relieve suffering through the treatment of pain and other problems facing patients. 

How is palliative care different than hospice?

Palliative care and hospice have similar values in treatment. Both types of care focus on preventing pain and improving the patient’s quality of life. Palliative care is distinct from most hospice arrangements in that you can continue to pursue curative treatment while receiving palliative care. Patients do not have to be classified with a terminal diagnosis to qualify for palliative care. 

Palliative care is a distinct medical specialty while hospice is a type of service. When you begin receiving palliative care, you will work with a palliative care physician and care team that has specialized in this type of medicine. Depending on your needs and preferences, your support team may also consist of social workers, a psychiatrist, and if desired, a chaplain.

Who can receive palliative care?

Palliative care is appropriate at any age or stage of illness. It can be provided on its own or in addition to curative treatment, such as chemotherapy. In fact, doctors often recommend seeking palliative care in the initial stages of an illness to help prevent pain and stress throughout treatment.

What does palliative care consist of?

Palliative care focuses on pain prevention, relief, and management as well as reducing the symptoms and stress that can accompany serious illness or end of life. Additionally, the palliative care team can help patients think proactively about end-of-life decisions and are skilled in having difficult conversations with patients and their loved ones.

Who pays for palliative care?

Most health insurance plans, including Medicare and Medicaid, cover this form of care.

Where do I get palliative care?

Palliative care is typically available as a component of inpatient care or within the patient’s home, but this can vary depending on the health system.  

How do I start palliative care?

If you think you or a loved one may benefit from palliative care, talk to your physicians and care team. They can connect you to a palliative care team while continuing any other treatments you are receiving.