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What is Palliative Care?

Palliative care (pronounced pal-lee-uh-tiv) specializes in the relief of the pain, symptoms and stress of serious illness. The goal is to improve quality of life for patients and their families. Palliative care is appropriate at any point in an illness. And it can be provided at the same time as treatment that is meant to cure you.

Ensures quality of life

Palliative care is not a one-size-fits-all approach. Patients have a range of diseases and respond differently to treatment options. A key benefit of palliative care is that it customizes treatment to meet the needs of each individual person.

Palliative care aims to relieve symptoms such as pain, shortness of breath, fatigue, constipation, nausea, loss of appetite and difficulty sleeping. It helps patients gain the strength to carry on with daily life. It improves their ability to tolerate medical treatments. And it helps them better understand their choices for care. Overall, palliative care offers patients the best possible quality of life during their illness.

Palliative care benefits both patients and their families. Patient comfort is a main goal. So is support for the family. The team helps patients and family make medical decisions and choose treatments. It also makes sure they get reliable information.

Different from hospice

Palliative care is not the same as hospice care. Palliative care may be provided at any time during a person’s illness, even from the time of diagnosis. And, it may be given at the same time as curative treatment.

Hospice care always provides palliative care. However, it is focused on terminally ill patients-people who no longer seek treatments to cure them and who are expected to live for about six months or less.

Provided by a team

Usually a team of experts, including palliative care doctors, nurses and social workers, provides this type of care. Chaplains, pharmacists, nutritionists and others might also be part of the team.

You can get palliative care when you are at home, in an assisted living facility, nursing facility or hospital. Working in partnership with your primary doctor, the palliative care team provides:

  •  Expert treatment of pain and other symptoms
  •   Close, clear communication
  •   Help navigating the healthcare system
  •   Guidance with difficult and complex treatment choices
  •   Detailed practical information and assistance
  •  Emotional and spiritual support for you and your family