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Palliative Care: What It Is


What Palliative Care Is

Palliative Care is the use of medications and other methods to eliminate or at least minimize pain and other symptoms associated with a serious illness. (Palliative is pronounced pal-lee-uh-tiv)

The palliative care team does the following according to the American Academy of Hospice and Palliative Medicine:

  • Provides relief from pain and other uncomfortable symptoms.
  • Assists in making difficult medical decisions.
  • Coordinates care with doctors other than the specialist taking car eof the disease and helps navigate the often-complex healthcare system.
  • Guides in making a plan for living well, based on your needs, concerns and goals for care.
  • Provides emotional and spiritual support and guidance for the patient and loved ones.

When it first started, palliative care was only given to patients who stopped taking curative treatments. Today, palliative care can be given at any place on the journey - including the same time medical care is given to cure a health condition.

Palliative care can be given anywhere, including at home, in a hospital, in a nursing home or in an assisted living facility.

Palliative care should not be confused with hospice care which is only about care at end-of-life. 

Palliative care can be given by the doctor who treats the disease, by a doctor who specializes in palliative care (a palliative care specialist.) or by a team which includes a palliative care doctor, nurses and other professionals.

NOTE: According to a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, doctors found that patients with terminal lung cancer who began receiving palliative care immediately upon diagnosis not only were happier, more mobile and in less pain as the end neared - but they also lived nearly three months longer.

How To Get Palliative Care

If your doctor or hospital does not offer palliative care, you can find palliative care through the following resources (in alphabetical order):

NOTE: It helps to give the palliative care team goals you would like to achieve in addition to pain relief. With goals, the team can work to help you achieve them. For example, to be clear headed so you can work. One way to set goals is to think of the three things that bring you the most joy in life. Then make those three things into goals.

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