Palliative Care: What You Need to Know

Despite the highest per person spending on health care in the world, Americans report a rushed, fragmented and confusing experience with the health care system. Studies clearly show that symptoms are often under treated, and communication between physicians and patients about what is happening and what it means, is virtually nonexistent. Family caregivers struggle to make sense of their loved ones’ needs and how best to meet them.

Palliative care developed in response to these needs and has grown rapidly because it is an effective solution, proven to relieve suffering, improve communication and coordinate care over the course of an illness.

Palliative care helps your primary physician ensure the kind of responsive, patient-centered care that each one of us deserves when we are at our most vulnerable. It provides relief from symptoms including pain, shortness of breath, fatigue, constipation, nausea, loss of appetite, problems with sleep and many other symptoms. It can also help you cope with the medical treatments you’re receiving and improve your strength to carry on with daily life.

Palliative care offers support for you and your family and can improve communication between you and your entire health care team. Palliative care provides:

  • Closely monitored, expert treatment of your pain and other symptoms.
  • Open discussion and time to devote to meeting with you and your family about treatment choices, including curative options.
  • Coordination of your care with all of your health care providers.
  • Emotional support for you and your family.

Focusing on communication in addition to pain and symptom management allows the palliative care team to explore patients’ values and goals. Patients facing serious illness today can live for years or be cured.  This is why palliative care is necessary for those with serious, chronic illnesses who want to remain in control of their lives and care.

In the hospital, palliative care is delivered by a team of experts, including palliative care doctors, nurses and social workers. Illnesses treated by palliative care include cancer, heart disease, lung disease, kidney failure, Alzheimer’s, AIDS, ALS, multiple sclerosis and many others.