Palliative Care

Palliative care focuses on expert assessment and management of pain and other symptoms, assessment and support of caregiver needs, and coordination of care. Palliative care attends to the physical, functional, psychological, practical, and spiritual consequences of a serious illness. It is a person- and family-centered approach to care, providing people living with serious illness relief from the symptoms and stress of an illness. Through early integration into the care plan for the seriously ill, palliative care improves quality of life for the patient and the family.

Palliative care is:

  • Appropriate at any stage in a serious illness, and it is beneficial when provided along with treatments of curative or life-prolonging intent.
  • Provided over timeto patients based on their needs and not their prognosis.
  • Offered in all care settingsand by various organizations, such as physician practices, health systems, cancer centers, dialysis units, home health agencies, hospices, and long-term care providers.
  • Focused on what is most important to the patient, family, and caregiver(s),assessing their goals and preferences and determining how best to achieve them.
  • Interdisciplinaryto attend to the holistic care needs of the patient and their identified family and Caregivers.

National Consensus Project Clinical Practice Guidelines for Quality Palliative Care Guidelines, 4th Edition.  *

Palliative care, which may also be referred to as palliative medicine or supportive care, is specialized medical care for individuals with chronic or advanced illness.  Palliative medicine provides expert pain and symptom management and enhances quality of life, and is appropriate at any age and any stage of the illness, even during curative treatments.

Palliative care can provide relief from symptoms caused by serious illness including shortness of breath, difficulty sleeping, loss of appetite, nausea, fatigue and pain.  Illnesses include Congestive Heart Failure, Lung Disease, Cancer, Kidney Disease, Stroke, ALS, Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimers.

In addition to relieving pain and symptoms, the palliative care team helps you and your family understand the illness and available care options, while also helping to clarify goals of care and choose treatment along with your goals.

Supportive care is physical, emotional, and spiritual care for a person experiencing a serious illness.  With Palliative care an individual may be receiving curative treatment and need additional support. While Hospice care is a type of palliative care, palliative care is not always considered hospice.  Palliative care focuses on providing relief of symptoms and stress of a serious illness.  The goal of these programs is to maximize a person’s quality of life through symptom management and to achieve comfort while focusing on the respect of the individual and their wishes.

* Acknowledgments
The NCP Clinical Practice Guidelines for Quality Palliative Care, 4th edition, was funded by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation with additional support for the systematic review by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, Gary and Mary West Foundation, The John A. Hartford Foundation, and Stupski Foundation.

Ferrell Betty R. Twaddle Martha L. Melnick Amy Meier Diane E. Authors and Affiliations

Ferrell Betty R.1
Twaddle Martha L.2
Melnick Amy3
Meier Diane E.4
1Division of Nursing Research and Education, City of Hope Medical Center, Duarte, California.
2Department of Hospice and Palliative Medicine, Northwestern Feinberg School of Medicine, Chicago, Illinois.
3National Coalition for Hospice and Palliative Care, Richmond, Virginia.
4Center to Advance Palliative Care, New York, New York