Center to Advance Palliative Care

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Defining Palliative Care

Palliative care (pronounced pal-lee-uh-tiv) is specialized medical care for people with serious illnesses. It is focused on providing patients with relief from the symptoms, pain, and stress of a serious illness—whatever the diagnosis. The goal is to improve quality of life for both the patient and the family.

Palliative care is provided by a team of doctors, nurses, and other specialists who work together with a patient's other doctors to provide an extra layer of support. It is appropriate at any age and at any stage in a serious illness and can be provided along with curative treatment.

Relieves suffering. Improves quality of life.

Palliative care treats people suffering from serious and chronic illnesses including cancer, cardiac disease such as Congestive Heart Failure (CHF), Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), kidney failure, Alzheimer's, HIV/AIDS and Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS). Palliative care relieves the symptoms of these diseases, such as pain, shortness of breath, fatigue, constipation, nausea, loss of appetite and difficulty sleeping. It helps you gain the strength to carry on with daily life. It improves your ability to tolerate medical treatments. And it helps you have more control over your care by better understanding your choices for treatment options.

The point of palliative care is to relieve suffering and provide the best possible quality of life for both the patient and their family.

A Partnership of Patient, Specialists and Family

Palliative care is a partnership of patient, medical specialists and family. Usually a team of experts, including palliative care doctors, nurses and social workers, provides this care and works together with your own doctor. Chaplains, massage therapists, pharmacists, nutritionists and others may also be part of the palliative care team.

The palliative care team of specialists provides spends as much time as necessary with you and your family. The team supports you and your family every step of the way, not only by controlling your symptoms, but also by helping you to understand your treatment options and goals. Working with your doctor to provide an extra layer of support, the palliative care team provides:

  • Time for close communication
  • Expert management of pain and other symptoms
  • Help navigating the healthcare system
  • Guidance with difficult and complex treatment choices
  • Emotional and spiritual support for you and your family