Palliative Care

Palliative Care — Frequently Asked Questions

Below are answers to frequently asked questions about palliative care services.

What is palliative care?

Palliative care is specialized medical care that provides an extra layer of support to patients with serious illnesses, including patients who are undergoing aggressive treatment. It focuses on providing patients with relief from the symptoms, pain and stresses associated with serious illness. The goal is to improve quality of life for a patient, family and caregivers.

Is palliative care the same as hospice care?

No. Palliative care is available to all patients and their families at any stage of a serious illness and while patients continue to undergo curative or aggressive treatment. Hospice offers a comprehensive package of services to patients whose goals focus on comfort.

What additional services does hospice offer?

Hospice provides home visits by a comprehensive team of providers including a physician, nurse, social worker, chaplain, home health aide and volunteer. Hospice care is available in any setting, including in a dedicated hospice inpatient unit. Hospice also provides medications, durable medical equipment and a 24-hour call center for crises and questions.

Who needs palliative care services?

Palliative care is appropriate for patients at any age and at any stage of a serious or chronic illness. For example, palliative care is available to patients with cancer, heart disease, stroke, renal disease, Alzheimer's disease and many other illnesses. It is accessible at any time during the course of an illness, including while a patient is pursuing curative or aggressive treatment.

Who serves on the palliative care team?

Doctors, nurses, social workers, pharmacists and other specialists work together with the patient's own doctors to provide an extra layer of support. The team assists with managing symptoms and providing support for psychosocial problems.

How does a patient receive palliative care services?

Patients and their families can request palliative care services at any time during a serious illness. In addition, physicians and medical staff at hospitals or other health care facilities will refer a patient or request that hospitalized patients be evaluated for services by the hospital's palliative care team.

What can I expect when receiving palliative care?

Patients and families can expect comprehensive supportive care for pain and other debilitating physical symptoms. Palliative care services also help patients with other issues that may be causing stress, worry, depression or frustration. The team works to find solutions and address any physical, emotional, spiritual or practical problems causing discomfort and pain.

Does insurance pay for palliative care?

Medicare, Medicaid and many private insurance plans cover the services just as they do for other consultative medical services.

Where does a patient receive palliative care services?

Palliative care services, including hospice, are provided in hospitals, in outpatient clinics or in a patient's own home, primary residence, nursing home, assisted living facility or other residences.