About Palliative Care

“Palliative care” (pal-e-uh-tive), which means comfort care, has come to have two meanings:

  1. It is the general term given to end-of-life care that focuses on patient comfort, rather than recovery and cure. (Hospice care, then, is a particular kind of palliative care.)
  2. It has in recent years come to refer to a particular healthcare service for people living with any serious illness. It is often simply referred to by a hospice or hospital as “our palliative care program.” Sometimes it may have a customized name such as “Palliative Care Consults,” or a name without the word “palliative” in it at all.

Simply put, palliative care is patient- and family-centered care that optimizes quality of life for people with any serious illness by anticipating, preventing and solving the issues involved in serious illness. And because illness is a family matter, the family is part of the care.

More detailed information can be found below.


More Information about Palliative Care

Palliative Care facilitates patient autonomy, access to information, and choice, largely through conversation with the patient and family. Some of the main topics of conversation are around goals of care:

  • Helping the family navigate the healthcare system to help the person decide if they will focus on aggressive treatment, comfort care, or a combination of the two
  • Assisting with pain and symptom management
  • Suggesting adjustments that will improve the quality of everyday life for the person and the family
  • Helping to identify needed practical resources
  • Assisting in planning for the future, including completing advance directives, and making home improvements that simplify life for the patient and family
  • Palliative Care Is appropriate at any age

    Palliative Care is available through the continuum of the illness

    Palliative Care is provided by MDs, NPs, or PAs; and some programs use nurses, social workers, and other professionals.

    Palliative Care may be provided in a variety of settings: private homes, hospital, skilled and assisted living facilities, and on an outpatient basis.

    How Palliative Care Differs from Hospice Care

    Palliative care is available at any stage in the illness

    With palliative care services, no specific life expectancy is required

    Palliative care may be provided for years

    Palliative care can be provided along with curative treatments

    Patients and families may access other reimbursed services from the community while they are receiving palliative care

    Hospice is a specialized form of palliative care, delivered in the last 6 months of life

    Triggers for a Palliative Care Consult
    The presence of a serious illness and one or more of the following:

  • Uncontrolled pain or other symptoms
  • Patient, family or physician uncertainty regarding prognosis
  • The need for discussion of goals of care – aggressive treatments vs. comfort care only
  • Complex medical decisions for patient/family about issues such as resuscitation or artificial nutrition/hydration
  • Completion of advance care planning documents (Living Will, Health Care Power of Attorney, MOST/POST, DNR)
  • Multiple hospitalizations for same diagnosis within 30 days
  • Prolonged stay in ICU
  • Admitted to hospital from long-term care facility
  • Emotional, social, and/or spiritual suffering