What is palliative care?

Palliative care can be provided at any time during a serious illness, whether you are expecting a full recovery or continue to decline. It includes pain and symptom relief, supportive care, and helpful conversations about your disease progression, treatment options and personal goals of care. It is especially beneficial for people who have debilitating side effects from their treatment, or for those who have multiple health conditions that are challenging to manage. 

You or a family member may be symptomatic with a serious illness, such as cancer, heart failure, COPD or emphysema, progressive neurological disorders, dementia, debility, etc. You may be experiencing:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Bone, muscle, nerve, tissue or tumor pain
  • Nausea
  • Fatigue
  • Stress, anxiety or depression
  • Constipation or diarrhea
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Loss of appetite
  • Other debilitating symptoms

And, in addition, your quality of life is affected by these issues:

  • The side effects of your treatment are debilitating and difficult to manage.
  • You often go to the ER or are hospitalized due to uncontrolled pain or other symptoms.
  • You have several illnesses that, combined, make your care needs more complex.
  • Your condition has worsened and you are confused or worried about the progression of your disease and treatment options.
  • You have been released from the hospital or a rehab facility and are having difficulty maintaining your comfort at home.
  • You have emotional or spiritual concerns that are affecting your wellbeing.
  • Your caregivers are struggling to understand and manage your illness.
  • It is physically difficult for you to visit your physician’s office.

Palliative care is generally provided on a consultative basis. After visiting you, an Advanced Practice Nurse (APN) will evaluate your condition and, in consultation with a palliative care physician, will contact and make recommendations to your own physician. He or she will then continue to manage your care. The palliative care team may visit you several more times, or simply stay in touch by phone, until your symptoms are better controlled.

Medicare, Medicaid and other insurers cover the costs of palliative care.

Learn more about how palliative care works with your doctors and supports you as you cope with serious illness.