What is Palliative Care?

Palliative Care

Palliative care (pronounced pal-lee-uh-tiv) is specialized medical care for people with a serious illness in need of relief from pain and suffering. Palliative services focus on improving the patients quality of life by providing as much comfort as possible. Unlike hospice care which dedicates it’s services to those who are at the end of life, palliative care may be used at any point of time during a serious illness, whether that illness is chronic, life-threatening or curable.

Team Approach

Palliative care takes a team approach by providing personalized care tailored specifically for each individual. The interdisciplinary team is comprised of doctors, dietitians, social workers, psychologists, massage therapists, chaplains and other health professionals. Palliative care strives to provide the highest quality of support not only for the patient but for their family as well.

How can Palliative Care Help my Loved One? 

  • Manages pain and discomfort as much as possible
  • Helps patients understand their choices for medical treatment
  • Experts help patient and family cope with medical treatments, stress and fears about the future
  • Provides a variety of counseling options
  • Gives guidance from healthcare professionals
  • Addresses symptoms related to serious illness such as sleeplessness, loss of appetite and shortness of breath
  • Offers a variety of therapies including physical, cognitive, emotional and integrative.
  • Gives families the tools they need to make the most of their time together
  • Palliative doctors can coordinate care with your general doctor
  • Ongoing care, comfort and support

Is Palliative Care for the Dying?

It is important to understand that palliative care does not mean you are giving up. Palliative care is designed to help you achieve the outcome you desire while making you as comfortable as possible during your journey. You can receive palliative care in combination with taking curative measures as you undergo treatments to fight your disease. Palliative care may benefit your health by improving your quality of life giving you access to the tools needed to cope, feel less pain and fight.

Who Pays for Palliative Care?

Costs related to medical care can cause serious financial strain on the patient and their family members. Private insurance companies and health maintenance organizations (HMOs) often cover palliative care and can help you find out what other services are covered by your health plan at no cost. Coverage from Medicare and Medicaid may vary from state to state and depend on factors such as the type of plan you have, age and income. Be aware that Medicare and Medicaid may use a different name for palliative care, however, the services offered are the same.

How can I find Palliative Care?

There are various avenues to finding palliative care. Common sources include asking your general doctor, hospital, assisted living, nursing home or insurance company. Too often patients and family members wait longer than necessary to receive palliative care. If you feel there is a chance that you or your loved one may benefit from this type of care, do not wait for a physician or other health care provider to bring it up. It is your right to be provided with options and have the opportunity to receive comfort measures sooner rather than later.

Do you have a question or personal insight to share regarding palliative care? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.







  1. Trudy Flores

    Thanksgiving 2016 marks a year since my 55 year-old husband died of cirrhosis with hepatic encephalopathy. I was his caregiver for about 8 years at the same time I had a full-time job and was the parent for our then middle school and later high school/college-aged daughters. I was able to locate very few resources, for the caregiver or for my spouse, that were appropriate to his age and our particular situation, especially because his symptoms were so erratic that by the time we’d finally established a palliative care or home health connection, he’d have a few good weeks and the resource would be withdrawn. Only to have them needed as soon as they were no longer in place.

    Although other aspects of our situation were also unusual (bicultural family, spouse a resident alien and not a native English speaker, extended family “resources” also multi-person caregivers, spouse ill and unemployed/uninsured for too long to qualify for SS disability), now that I’m on the “other side” of my caregiving experience, I’d like to see whether there are resources that the social workers and I simply couldn’t find and whether there are folks who might need my support, such as I could offer. I’m still not seeing places where my experiences and participation might be most beneficial to others in similar circumstances.

    My grandmother was in hospice before she died in September, and my father is older and absolutely surrounded by home health and elder care options. Where are the support programs for the younger or otherwise “atypical” chronically ill and their caregivers?

    • Kristin Angulo

      Thank you for sharing your story Trudy. I am happy to hear that your father is surrounded by home health and elder care options, I’m sorry you had so many difficulties regarding your husbands situation last year. Being a caregiver is never easy but it sounds like you are on the right track. Being surrounded by a team of professionals can lighten your load and allow you to give your best to your loved ones. Thank you again for sharing your story, I’m sure it helps others who are in similar situations.

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