What is Palliative Care?
Palliative care is both a philosophy of care and a structured system for delivering care. The term palliative care actually comes from the Latin palliate, which means to relieve or to make less severe or intense and is pronounced pal-lee-ah-tiv. Palliative care is a partnership of patient, palliative specialists and family that is usually provided by a multidisciplinary team including doctors, nurses and social workers. Often, chaplains, massage therapists, pharmacists, nutritionists and others may also be a part of the team. The goal of the palliative care team is to prevent and relieve suffering and to improve quality of life for individuals facing serious, chronic or life-limiting illness. This multidisciplinary approach allows the palliative care team to address physical, emotional, spiritual, and social concerns that arise when living with a chronic or life-limiting illness. Palliative care affirms life by supporting both the patient and the family’s goals for the future, including their hopes for cure or life prolongation, as well as their hopes for peace and dignity throughout the course of illness, the dying process and death.
What is the difference between Palliative Care and Hospice Care?
Hospice is an intensive, specialized type of palliative care. To be eligible for hospice care, a person must have a life expectancy of six months or less, if their disease runs its normal course, and they must also forgo all curative treatments. The goal of palliative care within a hospice program is not to cure, but to provide comfort through pain and symptom relief and to maintain the highest possible quality of life for as long as life remains. However, palliative care outside of hospice can be provided at any stage of a serious illness, whether that illness is potentially curable, chronic or life-threatening. Unlike hospice care, palliative care is appropriate for patients in all disease stages, including those undergoing treatment for curable illnesses and those living with chronic diseases, as well as patients who are nearing the end of life.
How does Palliative Care help me or my loved one?
The goal of palliative care is to prevent and relieve suffering and to support the best possible quality of life for patients and their families, regardless of the stage of the disease or the need for other therapies. Palliative care aims to guide and assist the patient and family in making decisions that enable them to work toward their goals. It is important to note that palliative care is not a one-size-fits-all approach. Patients have a range of diseases and respond differently to treatment options. A key benefit of palliative care is that it looks at the patient as a whole in order to meet the individual needs of each person and family. The palliative care team of specialists spends as much time as necessary with the patient and their family. The team supports both the patients and their family every step of the way, not only by controlling pain and symptoms, but also by helping them to understand their treatment options and goals. Working with the patient’s own physician to provide an extra layer of support, the palliative care team provides:
- Help navigating the healthcare system
- Guidance with difficult and complex treatment choices
- Emotional and spiritual support
- Help with decisions regarding goals of care
- Communication with other family members who many have questions.
How would Palliative Care be different or better than the care I am receiving now?
Palliative care is a holistic health care philosophy and a person-centered care approach that seeks to relieve the symptoms of a disease or disorder whether or not it can be cured. You can receive palliative care at any stage of a serious illness, whether that illness is potentially curable, chronic, or life-threatening. Palliative care offers an interdisciplinary team approach, simultaneously addressing the physical, psychological, social, and spiritual needs of patients and their families. This may or may not be different than the care you are already receiving.
Do you have questions about Palliative care? This is a great video from Diane E. Meier, MD, FACP, Director, Center to Advance Palliative Care answering your most frequently asked questions.