What is palliative care?

Palliative care is a type of care available to a person who has a long-term (chronic) illness and is in pain. The main goal is to ease their suffering, give comfort, and improve their quality of life over the full course of their illness.

Video: learn about palliative care from the leading activist, author, and speaker Jessica Zitter, M.D. 

Palliative care is different than hospice care, which is comfort care for people in the final stage of a serious illness, usually with 6 months or less to live. Palliative care can be a part of the total treatment plan for your illness – even if you don’t have a terminal illness.

Here are the ways palliative care can provide comfort to someone with an illness:
  • Takes care of you as a whole person, instead of just focusing on your symptoms. The care team will also offer to help you mentally and emotionally, such as giving counseling if you feel depressed, anxious, or confused.
  • Eases the symptoms that trouble you, such as relieving your pain through medicines or special activities
  • Gives support to your loved ones – the care team may try to lower costs or recommend helpful care services
  • Is a team effort where you, your loved ones, doctors, nurses, social workers, and other specialists work together

Who can receive palliative care?

Palliative care can help people of all ages, even children, who have a serious or chronic illness.

Chronic illnesses are illnesses that cannot easily be cured, with symptoms that last for a long time. Some examples are cancer, multiple sclerosis, dementia, kidney disease, and Parkinson’s.