healthcare worker talking to senior woman

What is Palliative Care?

Palliative care is a specialized form of medical care designed to relieve the symptoms and stress of a severe illness. Focusing on improving the quality of life for patients and their families, this approach addresses the emotional, physical, and spiritual needs of those facing life-altering diagnoses, ensuring care is tailored to individual needs and comfort.

Key Features of Palliative Care

  • Focus on Quality of Life: Palliative care improves the lives of seriously ill patients by managing their symptoms and providing emotional support to help them and their families cope with the challenges of the illness.
  • Interdisciplinary Approach: A diverse team of medical professionals, including doctors, nurses, social workers, pharmacists, nutritionists, and spiritual counselors, work together to provide personalized palliative care that addresses all aspects of a patient’s care.
  • Support for Families: Palliative care helps patients’ families cope with caregiving challenges and emotional impact by providing resources such as respite care, decision-making support, and bereavement support.
  • Applicable at Any Stage of Illness: Palliative care can begin during a serious illness, not just at the end-of-life stage. Early integration helps patients manage symptoms, navigate the healthcare system, and improve outcomes and well-being.
  • Compatibility with Curative Treatment: Palliative care enhances patients’ quality of life undergoing chemotherapy or radiation therapy by managing side effects without replacing curative treatments.

Palliative vs. Hospice

While palliative and hospice care provide comfort, they differ in certain aspects. Palliative care can begin at diagnosis and at the same time as treatment. Hospice care, on the other hand, is typically reserved for when treatment of the disease is no longer the focus of care, and the prognosis generally is six months or less if the disease follows its usual course.

Palliative Care Team

A palliative care team often includes a variety of healthcare professionals: doctors, nurses, and other specialists. They collaborate to provide an extra support layer, addressing physical, emotional, social, and spiritual needs. The team coordinates care and helps navigate the healthcare system, ensuring the patient’s and their family’s needs are met comprehensively.