What is Palliative Care


What is Palliative Care?

Palliative care is an extra layer of support that is given throughout the treatment process that includes specialized medical care and emotional support for people with serious or chronic illnesses. Palliative care focuses on relieving symptoms and stress caused by the illness and improving quality of life for the patient and their family. Palliative care can be given in concert with patients that chose to or are receiving curative or life-prolonging care. Palliative care is administered by an interdisciplinary team that works together to give patient centered care. This team may consist of but is not limited to physicians, nurses, social workers and chaplains.

Palliative care has no time restrictions. Palliative care can be administered to anyone at any time at any stage of their illness. (How Palliative Care Differs, 2014)

Palliative care is usually administered at the facility that the patient is receiving treatment like the hospital or extended care facility but it can be administered at home.

Palliative care is usually administered through the individual’s hospital or primary care provider so it is likely that is will be covered by the individual’s medical insurance and is covered by Medicare and Medicaid. (Hospice Vs Palliative Care, 2015)

Why is Palliative Care Important?

Manages symptoms and Side Effects
Serious illness and treatments can cause physical and emotional symptoms and side effects. Palliative care helps to prevent, manage and relieve the symptoms and side effects through medication, physical therapy, nutritional counseling, relaxation techniques, massage, acupuncture and exercise programs.

Assistance with Everyday Concerns
The financial impact of your diagnosis can cause stress and tension to the patient and family. Part of the palliative care involves the healthcare team assisting the patient to figure out what costs to expect and for how long and to address the patient’s financial and concerns. Addressing transportation, family and living expenses and caregiving issues need to be part of the plan of care. Legal questions regarding employment, lost wages, medical expenses, taxes and wills may also arise and the patient and family should be educated and given information regarding resources and options they can use. 

Addresses Spiritual Questions and Concerns
Many palliative care patients and their families struggle with questions about their illness and trying to make sense of everything that has happened to them. Patients who are part of an organized religion or faith find great comfort and strength in their beliefs. Others may need help exploring their spiritual views and beliefs or facing questions and concerns about their spiritual life. The interdisciplinary palliative care team can connect patients and families with chaplains, clergy or other religious resources to assist the patient and family in finding comfort and peace and being able to move forward.

Provides Support to Family, Friends and Caregivers.
Receiving a serious diagnosis can cause much upheaval and distress to the patient and the family. There is so much to process and the emotional toll affect everyone in a family, especially the caregivers.   Here are a few of many ways that interdisciplinary palliative care team members provide support to patients, caregivers and families:

  1. Explaining and educating them about the illness and treatments
  2. Teaching decision making and giving decision support
  3. Assisting in advanced care planning
  4. Promoting self-care, including eating healthy, exercise, and relaxation
  5. Connecting them to counseling and respite care (How Palliative Care Differs, 2014)


References: How Palliative Care Differs from Hospice care. (2014). In ASCOanswers Palliative Care Improving Quality of Life for Patients and Families. Alexandria, Virginia. and Hospice Vs. Palliative Care. (2015). Retrieved November 16, 2015, from http://www.caregiverslibrary.org/caregivers-resources/grp-end-of-life-issues/hsgrp-hospice/hospice-vs-palliative-care-article.aspx