What to Expect with Palliative Care

May 12, 2018

If you’ve been diagnosed with a serious, long-term or terminal illness, then palliative care may be recommended to you by your doctor. Palliative care is the branch of medicine which seeks to make your life – and the lives of those who are caring for you – the highest-quality it can be.  You do not have to have a terminal diagnosis or be on hospice care to receive palliative care.

Palliative care, in many cases, is recommended to patients when a cure for an illness is no longer being sought. In this case, your primary care physician will help you to connect with a palliative care program. This program will focus on helping you relieve pain and other symptoms that are interrupting your life. Physicians will help you meet your emotional, spiritual, and practical needs. These specialty programs are aimed at improving your quality of life based on how you define it.

You will want to clearly define your goals with your care providers: relieving symptoms, whether you want counseling, spiritual needs. There may even be a discussion about end-of-life care if your illness is terminal. This branch of medicine aims to help you understand every aspect of your illness, including all your treatment options.

The best part about palliative care is that you can receive it even when you are actively seeking a cure for your illness. Palliative care is a great option for people who have been in and out of the hospital with a particular illness, or even for people who aren’t sick enough to be at the hospital, but who also can’t be home alone yet. In short, it’s not a sign that you are near your end of life transition. It could just mean that you need an extra set of hands, or extra care, for a while.

Palliative care concentrates on the human aspect of illness, not just the illness itself. When your doctor recommends palliative care, remember that they’re not giving up on you or your loved one, and it’s always your decision. This is a branch of medicine that concentrates on quality of life and living with an illness rather than simply treating or beating an illness. They can also connect caregivers with much-needed counseling, recognition and understanding, and spiritual guidance, particularly in the case that hospice care is needed.

Source: “When Is Palliative Care Appropriate?” WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD on August 13, 2017


National Institute of Nursing Research brochure, “Palliative Care: The Relief You Need When You’re Experiencing the Symptoms of Serious Illness.”

Journal of the American Medical Association: “Palliative Care Patient Page.”

GetPalliativeCare.org: “What Should You Know About Palliative Care?”

National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization: “How Can Palliative Care Help Me?”

The American Geriatrics Society (AGS) Foundation for Aging in Health: “Palliative Care and Hospice Care.”

World Health Organization – Europe: “Palliative Care: The Solid Facts.”

Strohbuecker, B. International Journal of Palliative Nursing, January 2011