What Is Palliative Care?



Palliative care is a fairly recent type of medical specialty designed to help those with serious illness by improving the quality of life and helping to relieve stress and suffering.

Unlike hospice care which is available only to those suffering from a terminal illness, palliative care is available to those with chronic, serious or life threatening illnesses.

Some types of chronic illnesses where a patient may benefit from palliative care include cancer, heart disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, kidney failure and many more.

The focus of palliative care is on symptoms like fatigue, constipation, shortness of breath, pain, depression, and loss of appetite. It can help you deal with these problems. Palliative care can help you better tolerate medical treatments and help you gain the strength to continue living your daily life.

A palliative care team may include a physician, nurse, social worker, massage therapist, pharmacist, chaplain or psychiatrist, nutritionist and physical, occupational or speech therapists as needed.



Many patients with serious illnesses are under the care of multiple doctors. The palliative team will work with these doctors and help provide more support for you.

The palliative team will work with you and your family to help you understand your options for treatment. It will help you better understand your treatment choices.   Palliative care can help the patient’s loved ones better understand the illness and the treatments available and provided to the patient..

Palliative care is patient centered. The team finds out what is most important to the patient and this becomes the team’s focus. They will develop a plan to meet the patient’s goals.

When a patient is diagnosed with a serious illness he may want to consider going into palliative care. If the illness improves he can transition out of the palliative care. Some patients have illnesses which get better and then get worse again so they transition in and out of palliative care.

Each patient and family is different and the palliative care team tailors treatment to meet the needs of the individual patient and his family.

If you have been diagnosed with a serious illness you may want to discuss the use of palliative care with your health care provider.