All About Palliative Care

Author: Christina Bach, MBE, LCSW, OSW-C, FAOSW
Last Reviewed: August 29, 2022

What is palliative care?

Palliative care is a type of care that focuses on managing symptoms related to an illness or its treatment. Treatments for many diseases, like cancer, can cause side effects and symptoms that affect daily life. Palliative care aims to improve the quality of life for patients and their families. Palliative care also helps patients and their loved ones make decisions about treatment and gives emotional and spiritual support.

Palliative care is not hospice. Hospice is a type of care for patients with a terminal illness. Palliative care can be received at any point during care for an illness, even if the goal of treatment is to cure the disease.

Who makes up the palliative care team?

The palliative care team may include a physician, nurse and/or nurse practitioner, pharmacist, chaplain, social worker, and support staff. Some teams may also include dieticians and integrative/complementary medicine providers. Palliative care providers work with your other care providers to help with symptoms and side effects and to make recommendations for your care. Palliative care teams can be found in outpatient clinics and in hospitals. Some also can see you in your home.

What can palliative care help with?

Palliative care can help with:

  • Pain management.
  • Management of symptoms like nausea, constipation, lack of appetite, diarrhea, depression, and anxiety.
  • Talking to you and your loved ones about your daily goals and if you want to make changes to your treatment plan.
  • The team can give emotional, practical, and spiritual support.
  • The team will talk to your other care teams and make recommendations for your care and symptom management.

Is palliative care covered by my insurance?

It is important to check with your insurance provider to see if they cover palliative care. Keep in mind that palliative care is a specialty, so you may have to pay specialist co-pays while receiving care from a palliative care team.

Is palliative care right for you?

GetPalliativeCare.org has a short quiz to help you determine if palliative care would be beneficial for you.

Questions to Ask Your Care Team About Palliative Care

  • What is palliative care?
  • Are palliative care and hospice the same?
  • Why am I being referred to a palliative care specialist?
  • What will the palliative care team offer to me in conjunction with my standard therapy?
  • Will my insurance cover palliative care?
  • How long will I be able to receive palliative care services?
  • Where will I receive palliative care?
  • Who provides palliative care services?
  • Is there support available for my family in conjunction with palliative care?
  • Can I still receive chemotherapy and radiation while receiving palliative care?

Resources for More Information

Visit GetPalliativeCare.org to learn more about this specialized medical care and to find a practice near you.

The National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization information for patients and caregivers about palliative care.

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