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What is Palliative Care?

Palliative care is the relieving or soothing of symptoms of a disease or disorder while maintaining the highest possible quality of life for patients.

Many people mistakenly believe you receive palliative care only when you can’t be cured. Actually, palliative medicine can be provided by one doctor while other doctors work with you to try to cure your illness.

Palliative care may actually help you recover from your illness by relieving symptoms—such as pain, anxiety, or loss of appetite—as you undergo sometimes-difficult medical treatments or procedures, such as surgery or chemotherapy.

Eligibility

Palliative care is for people of any age and at any stage in an illness, whether that illness is curable, chronic, or life-threatening. If you or a loved one are suffering from symptoms of a disease or disorder, be sure to ask your current physician for a referral for a palliative care consult.

Financial coverage for palliative care varies.

Receiving Care

Palliative doctors are specially trained in palliative medicine. They may provide palliative medicine through a hospital, hospice program, or both, and you can receive palliative care at a hospital, nursing home, assisted living facility, or your home.

To best meet your needs, palliative care uses a team approach. The team, headed by the palliative doctor, may include nurses, social workers, and other medical and nonmedical professionals and volunteers who provide palliative care.

The overall goal of palliative care is to improve your and your family's quality of life while you are ill. Research shows that people often live longer when they receive palliative care along with other treatments that are targeted at their illness.

How is Hospice Care Related to Palliative Care?

There is a specific type of palliative care—called hospice—for people for whom a cure is no longer possible and who likely have 6 months or less to live. Hospice care can be provided at a hospice facility, hospital, nursing home, or your home.

Hospice care is about giving you control, dignity, and comfort, and to provide the best possible quality of life during the time you have. Hospice care also provides support and grief therapy for your loved ones.

Whether receiving hospice or palliative care, you should make a plan to live well so that your wishes for care and living are known.