Palliative care is the care that you receive in addition to standard medical treatment when you have a serious illness or an illness that requires a difficult treatment. The goal is not to cure the condition, but instead improve quality of life during illness.

Sometimes that means treating the symptoms of the disease, other times it includes treating the more troublesome side effects of the treatment.

Palliative care treats the whole person, not just the illness, so you may see comfort measures in the form of pain management, emotional support, etc.

Palliative care can be given to people suffering from serious, lasting diseases that typically result in regular hospitalizations or emergency visits. Palliative care is often appropriate for people with diseases like:

  • Cancer
  • HIV or AIDS
  • Dementia
  • Parkinson’s
  • Alzheimer’s
  • Heart disease
  • Kidney disease
  • Advanced terminal illness

Palliative care is meant to lessen both the physical and emotional symptoms of living with a serious illness. Palliative care also exists to address the social and spiritual issues encountered by those who have a disease.

Some examples of palliative care include:

  • Talk therapy
  • Pain medication
  • Physical therapy
  • Spiritual counseling
  • Arrangement of transportation

Palliative Care vs. Hospice Care

Palliative care and hospice are two terms that are often mistakenly used interchangeably, even by medical staff. Palliative care is not necessarily just meant for terminal illnesses. For example, someone with cancer may benefit from palliative care while they are undergoing cancer treatment. But when their cancer goes into remission, they may no longer need palliative care.

Hospice care is a type of end-of-life care, meant to be administered when a person is not expected to live much longer (usually less than 6-12 months). Hospice care focuses on keeping a patient comfortable at the end of their life.