What is Palliative Care?

Adults with serious illness often live with physical and emotional pain. Palliative care is specialized medical care that helps to manage patient symptoms and focuses on improving the quality of life for both the patient and their family.

The palliative care team works with the individual’s current doctors to enhance patient care. Working with the doctor, the team can provide additional treatments to manage symptoms (pain, nausea, fatigue, depression, anxiety, shortness of breath, loss of appetite, constipation etc.) while also helping individuals and their families make difficult healthcare decisions.

Palliative care is based on the needs of the patient, not the likely course of the illness. Someone may receive palliative care in the early stages of a diagnosis while also receiving curative treatments such as chemotherapy, radiation, dialysis and surgery intended to cure a serious illness. As experts in pain and symptom management, a palliative care team can make it easier for people to tolerate certain treatments such as chemotherapy and radiation.

Palliative care is appropriate for people living with serious illnesses such as:

  • Congestive Heart Failure (CHF)
  • Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)
  • Cancer
  • Dementia
  • Chronic kidney disease
  • Parkinson’s disease

Who Provides Palliative Care?

Palliative care is provided by a team of doctors, nurses, and other specialists who work together with the patient, their caregivers, family, and the patient’s other doctors to provide medical, social, and emotional support. The specialists may include social workers, chaplains, therapists, or nutritionists, among other professionals. A person’s team may vary based on their needs and level of care.

Different providers may not all offer the same services. A good idea is to clarify what services are provided. It is also important to be aware that some providers have criteria that a person must meet for receiving palliative care. If you are denied service through one provider, you may still be able to receive care through another.

Where Is Palliative Care Provided?

Palliative care can be provided in any setting, such as hospitals, nursing homes, outpatient palliative care clinics, specialized clinics such as oncology, and at home.

Will My Insurance Cover Palliative Care?

Medicare, Medicaid and most private insurance plans will normally cover the medical portions of palliative care (physician and nurse services). You will likely need to pay a copay. If you are a veteran, you may be eligible for palliative care through the Department of Veterans Affairs. It is a good idea to find out in advance if there are services your insurance company, Medicaid or Medicare will not cover since you could be responsible for covering these out-of-pocket costs. If your palliative care has been initiated by a hospital, long-term care or physician’s office, a case manager may be able to help you.

If you are having a hard time coping with your physical or emotional pain due to a serious illness, speak with a healthcare provider to see if palliative care may be an option for you.

Choosing and finding a Palliative Care Provider

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Education/Resources

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Understanding the Situation

If you or someone close to you has just received a diagnosis, or you have been living with a serious health issue for some time, it may be helpful to stop and think about the following: Are there aspects about your (or your loved one’s) condition that you don’t understand? Does the medical team explain…

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What is Palliative Care?

Adults with serious illness often live with physical and emotional pain. Palliative care is specialized medical care that helps to manage patient symptoms and focuses on improving the quality of life for both the patient and their family. The palliative care team works with the individual’s current doctors to enhance patient care. Working with the…

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Choosing and Finding a Palliative Care Provider

If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with a serious illness, are having difficulty managing symptoms, or have had multiple hospitalizations or emergency room visits, palliative care may make your life and that of your family much easier.  If you are considering palliative care, the following questions that may help you identify a…

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What is Hospice Care?

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How to Find a Hospice Provider?

Selecting a Hospice Provider Just like selecting any other medical care, if you or someone you care about needs the support of hospice, it is important to find a provider that is a good fit. Click here to learn more about hospice care. There may be a number of organizations that provide care in your…