What Is palliative care?

Palliative care (pronounced pal-lee-uh-tiv) is specialized medical care for people with serious illness. It focuses on providing patients with relief from the symptoms, pain, and stresses of a serious illness-whatever the diagnosis. The goal is to improve quality of life for both the patient and the family.

Palliative care is provided by a team of doctors, nurses and other specialists who work together with a patient’s other doctors to provide an extra layer of support. It is appropriate at any age and at any stage in a serious illness and can be provided along with curative treatment.

The point is to relieve suffering and provide the best possible quality of life for both the patient and the family. Palliative care accomplishes this in a number of different, yet crucial ways by:

  • Providing expert treatment of symptoms such as pain, shortness of breath, fatigue, constipation, nausea, loss of appetite and many other symptoms
  • Devoting time to listen to you, answer your questions about your disease and treatment options and matching treatments to your individual goals
  • Helping to coordinate and share information with all of your other doctors and health providers

Anyone suffering from a serious illness can benefit from palliative care. These illnesses include, but are not limited to, cancer, cardiac disease such as congestive heart failure (CHF), chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), dementia, kidney failure, Alzheimer’s, HIV/AIDS and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).

Palliative care helps people gain the strength to carry on with daily life and improves the ability to tolerate medical treatments. It also enables patients to have more control over their care by improving their understanding of treatment options.

In other words, palliative care keeps the patient and family from having to be their own quarterback.
To find palliative care in your area, visit the “How to Get Palliative Care” section on www.getpalliativecare.org.