Comfort care; End of life - palliative care; Hospice - palliative care
Palliative care helps people with serious illnesses feel better by preventing or treating symptoms and side effects of disease and treatment.
The goal of palliative care is to help people with serious illnesses feel better. It prevents or treats symptoms and side effects of disease and treatment. Palliative care also treats emotional, social, practical, and spiritual problems that illnesses can bring up. When the person feels better in these areas, they have an improved quality of life.
Palliative care can be given at the same time as treatments meant to cure or treat the disease. Palliative care may be given when the illness is diagnosed, throughout treatment, during follow-up, and at the end of life.
Palliative care may be offered for people with illnesses, such as:
While receiving palliative care, people can remain under the care of their regular health care provider and still receive treatment for their disease.
Any health care provider can give palliative care. But some providers specialize in it. Palliative care may be given by:
Palliative care may be offered by hospitals, home care agencies, cancer centers, and long-term care facilities. Your provider or hospital can give you the names of palliative care specialists near you.
Both palliative care and hospice care provide comfort. But palliative care can begin at diagnosis, and at the same time as treatment. Hospice care begins after treatment of the disease is stopped and when it is clear that the person is not going to survive the illness.
Hospice care is most often offered only when the person is expected to live 6 months or less.
A serious illness affects more than just the body. It touches all areas of a person's life, as well as lives of that person's family members. Palliative care can address these effects of a person's illness.
Physical problems. Symptoms or side effects include:
Treatments may include:
Emotional, social, and coping problems. Patients and their families face stress during illness that can lead to fear, anxiety, hopelessness, or depression. Family members may take on care giving, even if they also have jobs and other duties.
Treatments may include:
Practical problems. Some of the problems brought on by illness are practical, such as money- or job-related problems, insurance questions, and legal issues. A palliative care team may:
Spiritual issues. When people are challenged by illness, they may look for meaning or question their faith. A palliative care team may help patients and families explore their beliefs and values so they can move toward acceptance and peace.
Tell your provider what bothers and concerns you most, and what issues are most important to you. Give your provider a copy of your living will or health care proxy.
Ask your provider what palliative care services are available to you. Palliative care is almost always covered by health insurance, including Medicare or Medicaid. If you do not have health insurance, talk to a social worker or the hospital's financial counselor.
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Rakel RE, Trinh TH. Care of the dying patient. In: Rakel RE, Rakel DP, eds. Textbook of Family Medicine. 9th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2016:chap 5.
Natbony J. Palliative care. In: Kleinman K, Mcdaniel L, Molloy M, eds. Harriet Lane Handbook: The Johns Hopkins Hospital. 22nd ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2021:chap 23.
Schaefer KG, Abrahm JL, Wolfe J. Palliative care. In: Hoffman R, Benz EJ, Silberstein LE, et al, eds. Hematology: Basic Principles and Practice. 7th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2018:chap 92.BACK TO TOP
Review Date: 1/29/2022
Reviewed By: Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Clinical Associate Professor, Department of Family Medicine, UW Medicine, School of Medicine, University of Washington, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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