What Is Pediatric Palliative Care?

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

Pediatric palliative care is provided by a team of doctors, nurses and other specialists who work together with a child’s other doctors as an extra layer of support. It is appropriate at any age and at any stage of an illness and can be provided along with treatment meant to cure.

Pediatric palliative care addresses a serious medical conditions, including genetic disorders, cancer, prematurity, neurologic disorders, heart and lung conditions and others. It relieves the symptoms of these diseases, such as pain, shortness of breath, fatigue, constipation, nausea, loss of appetite and difficulty sleeping. In short, it helps the child and the family gain the strength to carry on with daily life.

Above all, pediatric palliative care is family-centered. It helps with communication and coordination of care. With the close communication that palliative care provides, families are better able to choose options that are in line with their values, traditions and culture. This improves the well-being of the entire family.

It is best to start palliative care as early as possible. This benefits both the child and the family by relieving the symptoms, pain and emotional wear-and-tear that can make facing a serious illness so difficult for your child and your family caregivers alike.

Patient Perspectives: The Shu Family’s Palliative Care Story

In this podcast, we hear from Dannell Shu, whose son was born with severe brain damage. Dannell discusses the role the pediatric palliative care played not just in improving Levi’s quality of life, but in supporting the entire family as it navigated the waters of his chronic condition.