What Is Palliative Care?


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

Palliative care is provided by a specially-trained team of doctors, nurses, social workers and other specialists who work together with a patient’s 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.

Improves Quality of Life

Palliative care teams specialize in treating people suffering from the symptoms and stress of serious illnesses such as cancer, congestive heart failure (CHF), chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), kidney disease, Alzheimer’sParkinson’s, Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) and many more. Symptoms may include depression, pain, shortness of breath, fatigue, constipation, nausea, loss of appetite, difficulty sleeping and much more.

But the team will also spend time communicating deeply with you. They will give you control over your care by truly exploring your goals and helping you to understand your treatment options. They will help you gain the strength to carry on with daily life and improve your quality of life.

A Partnership of Palliative Care Team, Patient and Family

Palliative care teams work together with your other doctors, you and your family. Close communication is key. The palliative care team spends as much time as necessary communicating with you, your family and your other doctors. They support you and your family every step of the way.

The core team includes doctor, nurse and social work palliative care specialists. Massage therapists, pharmacists, nutritionists, chaplains and others may also be part of the team.

Talking to Your Doctor

If you or a loved one is facing a serious illness, you may benefit from palliative care. Speak to your doctor, and ask for it. Bring the handout with you!