Palliative Care

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At the completion of this unit the learner will be able to:
  • List three benefits of palliative care
  • Describe the difference between palliative care and hospice care
  • Define an Advance Healthcare Directive (AHCD)
  • Identify two websites that will provide you with resources to complete an AHCD

Understanding Palliative Care


Palliative care (pronounced pal-lee-uh-tiv)is medical care that focuses on preventing, treating and relieving the pain and suffering of serious illness. Unlike hospice, palliative care is not limited to providing care at the end of your life, but is provided side by side with curative treatments.

Palliative care provides you with options to cope with your medical treatment and better manage your chronic illness.It provides relief from physical symptoms as well as emotional support to help you to carry on with your life. Palliative care offers you and your loved ones an opportunity to discuss how you want to live with your disease.

Palliative care offers resources for you and your family including:
  • Monitoring treatment of your pain and other symptoms.
  • Meeting with you and your family about treatment choices, including completing an advanced healthcare directive.
  • Coordinating your care with all health care providers.
  • Providing spiritual and emotional support for you and your family.
  • Discussing end of life issues.

Today, with our current medical technology, people with chronic illness live for years. It is important that we are able to talk about how we want to live with disease and communicate this information to others. A palliative care team of specialists will help you to explore your values and goals.

Palliative Care Video

What is Palliative Care?

The World Health Organization defines palliative care as an approach that improves the quality of life for patients and their families living with advanced illness. Palliative care provides relief from pain and suffering and offers spiritual and psychosocial support to patients and caregivers.

Goals of palliative care:
  • to enhance the quality of life
  • to help patients live as actively as possible until death
  • to offer the patient and family support during advanced illness

How Does Palliative Care Differ From Hospice?


Palliative care is not the same as hospice care. The goal of palliative care is to relieve the pain, symptoms and stress of serious illness no matter what the prognosis. It is for people of all ages and at any time during an illness. Palliative care can be given along with treatments that are meant to cure you.

Hospice care always provides palliative care but at the end of life. It is for people who are terminally ill and who are not expected to live for more than six months.

What is an Advance Healthcare Directive?

Advance healthcare directives (AHCD) are legal documents that specify your wishes in the event you are too sick to speak for yourself.

This document explains the kinds of medical treatments you would wish to receive, or not receive in the last weeks of your life. Each state has its own laws defining the form advance directives can take and what medical decisions they can address. One common form is the living will, which can specify your preferences about certain kinds of life-sustaining treatments. Another is the durable power of attorney (otherwise referred to as health care proxy or agent), which names a trusted family member or friend to speak for you if you are unable to speak for yourself.

Several studies in recent years have found that when doctors have end-of-life discussions with patients and families, patients have less anxiety. Published last October in the Journal of the American Medical Association, one study found that when terminally ill patients had end-of-life counseling, it improved the quality of their life in their final days.

To learn more about AHCD go to Information About Advanced Healthcare Directives

Frequently Asked Questions About Palliative Care

Palliative care specializes in the relief of symptoms of advanced illness. The goal is to prevent and ease suffering and to offer patients and their families the best possible quality of life. It is useful at any stage of an illness and can be provided at the same time as curative treatment .

1. Where do I receive palliative care?

Palliative care is offered in hospitals, long-term care facilities or at home.

2. Does my insurance pay for palliative care?

Most insurance plans cover all or part of the palliative care you receive in the hospital.Outpatient palliative care coverage depends upon where you receive the services. Talk with your doctor.For more information, a social worker or financial consultant from the palliative care team can help you.

3. How do I or my loved ones get palliative care?

Palliative care services are available at most hospitals and health care organizations. Ask your doctor about palliative care.

4. How do I know if I need palliative care?

If you suffer a chronic illness you may receive palliative care. Palliative care is available for anyone with an advanced disease including cancer, heart disease, respiratory disease, kidney failure, Alzheimer’s, AIDS, Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) and multiple sclerosis.It is provided at any stage of illness along with treatment to cure you.

5. What can I expect from palliative care?

You can expect relief from many symptoms such as pain or shortness of breath.You can expect to have more control over your life and your illness as you and your loved ones learn how to manage your disease. Palliative care helps you carry on with your daily life by helping you to better understand your condition and your choices for medical care. In short, you can expect the best possible quality of life.

6. Who provides palliative care?

Palliative care is usually provided by a team of experts including palliative care doctors, nurses, social workers and chaplains. To learn more go to Get Palliative Care

Palliative Care/Resources


Palliative Care

What is Palliative Care? | What is Hospice? | What is an Advanced Health Care Directive? What you should know about palliative care | Palliative Care/Resources