Palliative care is specialized medical care for people living with a serious illness. This type of care is focused on providing relief from the symptoms and stress of the illness. The goal is to improve quality of life for both the patient and the family. Palliative care is provided by a specially-trained team of doctors, nurses and other specialists who work together with a patient’s other doctors to provide an extra layer of support. Palliative care is based on the needs of the patient, not on the patient’s prognosis. It is appropriate at any age and at any stage in a serious illness, and it can be provided along with curative treatment.
Palliative care specialists improve quality of life for the patients whose needs are most complex. Working in partnership with the primary physician, the palliative care team provides:
- Time to devote to intensive family meetings and patient/family counseling
- Skilled communication about what to expect in the future in order to ensure that care is matched to the goals and priorities of the patient and the family
- Expert management of complex physical and emotional symptoms, including complex pain, depression, anxiety, fatigue, shortness of breath, constipation, nausea, loss of appetite, and difficulty sleeping
- Coordination and communication of care plans among all providers and across all settings
Numerous studies show that palliative care significantly improves patient quality of life and lowers symptom burden. Apart from being the right thing to do for patients, this improved quality of life also means that an encounter with the health care system is less stressful and traumatic for families.