Q. What is palliative care?

A.

Palliative care (pronounced pal-lee-uh-tiv) is specialized medical care for people with serious illnesses. It focuses on providing relief from the symptoms, pain and stress of a serious illness, including cancer. The goal is to improve quality of life for both the patient and loved ones.

Palliative care is provided by a team of doctors, nurses, social workers and other specialists (e.g., massage therapists, pharmacists, nutritionists, chaplains) who work together with your other doctors to provide an extra layer of support. It is appropriate at any age and at any stage in a serious illness, and you can have it along with curative treatment.

Palliative care controls symptoms such as pain, shortness of breath, fatigue, constipation, nausea, loss of appetite, difficulty sleeping and depression. It also helps you gain the strength to carry on with daily life. It improves your ability to tolerate medical treatments. And it helps you have more control over your care by improving communication so that you can better understand your choices for treatment.

The palliative care team spends as much time as necessary with you and your loved ones and provides practical, emotional and spiritual support. They help you and your family every step of the way, not only by controlling your symptoms, but also by helping you to understand your treatment options and goals.

Most insurance plans, including Medicare and Medicaid, cover palliative care. If costs concern you, a social worker or financial consultant from the palliative care team can help you.

Learn more about palliative care through getpalliativecare.org.