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Palliative care is care that makes people with a serious illness as comfortable as possible. It also prevents and relieves suffering. And although it is often thought of as part of end-of-life care, it can be part of the care given to people in any stage of their disease. It's different than hospice care. Palliative care allows for medical therapies but focuses on:
Comfort and improving quality of life
Reaching the best possible function (for instance, daily activities, physical activity, self-care)
Helping with making decisions about end-of-life care
Providing emotional support to patients and their families
Talk with your healthcare provider or local hospital to see if palliative care is available in your area. Check with your health plan to see if this type of care is covered.
Palliative care can be given at any point during a serious illness, from diagnosis to end of life. Hospice care is only available to people near the end of life. You can receive palliative care while you are getting other treatments, including chemotherapy and radiation. Hospice care is provided when no other active or curative treatments are being used.
Both palliative and hospice care help people with serious illness by:
Improving quality of life
Caring for a person's physical, social, emotional, and spiritual needs
Either in the home, hospital, or a specialized setting, the services most palliative care providers can offer are extensive. The following are some of the services offered:
Psychosocial support and intervention to help the patient and family members
Equipment for delivery of medicines, nutrition, oxygen, and suction
Equipment, including special beds, toilets, chairs, wheelchairs, and bath needs
Skilled nursing care, healthcare providers, pharmacists, and other specialists
Medicine and nutrition support
Spiritual, religious, and cultural needs or requests
Special services for siblings or children (such as support groups)
Respite care, allowing the family to rest
A palliative care team may include:
Studies show that people who get palliative care have better quality of life and less pain, shortness of breath, depression, and nausea. Palliative care may help reduce:
Emergency room visits
Time in the intensive care unit
Chances of being readmitted to the hospital
Studies also show that people in palliative care have better emotional health.
If you are interested in palliative care, talk to your healthcare provider. They may be able to refer you to a program.
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