What is palliative care?

Palliative care is specialized medical care for people living with serious illness. It is appropriate at any age and at any stage in a serious illness and can be provided along with curative treatment. The goal is to improve quality of life for both the patient and his or her family.

Palliative care is provided by a team of palliative care physicians, nurses, social workers and others who work together with a patient’s other doctors to provide an extra layer of support. 


Improves quality of life

Palliative care teams treat people living with serious, complex and chronic illnesses including, but not limited to cancer; cardiac disease, including congestive heart failure (CHF) and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD); kidney failure; Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease; and Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS).

People benefit from palliative care at any stage of serious illness. Therefore, palliative care should be considered a key component of medical care along with all other appropriate treatments.

Palliative care teams support the primary physician, the patient and the family and support quality care by providing:

  • Time to devote to intensive family meetings and patient/family communication. 
  • Communication and support for resolving family/patient/physician questions concerning care goals.
  • Expertise in managing complex physical and emotional symptoms such as pain, shortness of breath, depression, nausea and more.
  • Coordination of care transitions across healthcare settings.

Palliative care teams also help improve: 

  • Patient and family satisfaction with their overall medical treatment, physicians and the healthcare team.
  • HCAHPS standards by contributing to reduced readmissions and hospital mortality.

Palliative care helps patients and families understand the nature of their illnesses and make timely, informed decisions about their care. They report improved quality of life and ability to function, as well as an improved understanding of their options. In addition, patients find palliative care gives them a better sense of control over their lives.


How is palliative care different from hospice care?

Like many people, you may be confused about the difference between palliative care and hospice care. Here's an easy way to look at it:

  • Palliative care relieves symptoms of a disease or disorder, regardless of whether or not it can be cured.  
  • Hospice care is a specific type of palliative care for people in the last stages of life who choose to stop potentially life-prolonging treatments.

​Palliative care focuses on improving quality of life, often alongside life-prolonging treatments.