Palliative care

About palliative care

Palliative care is a medical specialty available to patients with complicated, serious, or advanced illness. It is comprehensive, interdisciplinary care focused on relieving suffering and improving quality of life for patients and their families. Palliative care interventions can be provided along with life-prolonging treatment or as the primary focus of care.

A team of professionals work together, focusing on the person as a whole throughout an illness. The palliative care team consists of physicians, nurse practitioners, clinical social workers, pastoral counselors, dietitians and others who are dedicated to ensuring that patients’ and families’ goals are met. Click here to download a brochure.

Who is appropriate for palliative care?

Any patient who is diagnosed with a complex, serious medical illness may be referred to palliative care, regardless of their age or stage of illness. The palliative care team works with patients and families to provide support managing difficult symptoms, advanced care planning, and determining goals of care while assuring physical comfort and psychosocial support. In addition, the team can work with you to explore options for continuation of palliative services after discharge.

Palliative care team members are specifically trained to assist patients, families, and the medical team members in understanding all treatment options as they relate to the patient’s goals and definition of quality of life.

Is palliative care the same as hospice care?

No. Many times patients, families, and healthcare providers think palliative care and hospice are one and the same. Palliative care is intended to support patients and families managing symptoms and burdens of illness, no matter where they are in their illness process. However, hospice provides end-of-life care for patients suffering from advanced illness in the last six months of life or who have chosen not to pursue curative treatment.

Palliative careHospice care
Patients servedPatients of any age, at any stage of complex illnessPatients of any age in the last six months of life
Services providedThroughout illness and simultaneously with other treatmentAt the end of life and when curative treatment is not desired or effective
Comprehensive, coordinated pain and symptom control, care of psychological and spiritual needs, family support, and assistance in making transitions between care settingsComprehensive, coordinated pain and symptom control, care of psychological and spiritual needs, family support, and assistance in making transitions between care settings
Advanced care planning congruent with patient goalsBereavement care for loved ones
Key differencesProgram is open to all seriously ill patients, not just those with a six-month prognosisSix-month prognosis required by Medicare and other funders. Coverage includes outpatient medications and supplies. Efforts to cure or prolong life are not covered
Patients do not have to forego curative care
Palliative care team coordinates care from a variety of healthcare providers, including specialists and primary care physicians to prevent service fragmentation

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