Frequently Asked Questions
What is palliative care?
Palliative care is a specialty that provides comprehensive care to people living with serious illness, with a focus on relieving symptoms and stress. The goal is to improve the quality of life for all patients and their families.
Palliative care is provided by a team of physicians, advanced practice providers, nurses, pharmacists, social workers, chaplains, and others who work together with a patient’s other physicians to provide an extra layer of medical care and support. It’s appropriate at any age and at any stage in a serious illness and can be provided along with a curative approach (treatment with the goal of curing a patient).
How can palliative care help me and my family?
A consult with the supportive and palliative care team can help patients manage distressing symptoms such as pain, shortness of breath, fatigue, nausea, depression, and anxiety. Because patients and families experience serious illness together, our interdisciplinary team strives to:
- Understand what patients and families need
- Provide education about what a loved one is experiencing
- Offer emotional, psychosocial, and spiritual support
Palliative care also provides counseling around difficult medical decision-making, which often occurs in family units, and coordination of care across health care settings.
When should I seek palliative care?
Palliative care is appropriate the moment a patient is diagnosed with a serious illness – or at any point during the process. We work alongside the patient, family, and specialized medical team as patients pursue therapies and interventions designed to fight the serious illness. While palliative care can start at the beginning, middle, or end, the biggest benefit has been shown to be in the beginning, with patients living longer and enjoying a higher quality of life.
Is palliative care the same as hospice?
No. Palliative care provides care at any stage of a serious illness. Hospice is available when a patient’s prognosis is estimated to be six months or fewer.
Patients can receive palliative care while also receiving interventions intended to cure them (curative treatment). In hospice, the focus of care has shifted from curative interventions and aggressive treatments to symptom management, comfort, and quality of life.
While they differ in several ways, both palliative care and hospice focus on symptom relief, comfort, and support for patients and their families.