Last Days of Life (PDQ®): Supportive care - Patient Information [NCI] - Overview
Palliative care relieves symptoms and can improve the quality of life for patients and their families.
The goal of palliative care is to improve the patient's and the family's quality of life by preventing and relieving suffering. This includes treating physical symptoms such as pain, and dealing with emotional, social, and spiritual concerns. Palliative care is offered in some hospitals, outpatient centers, and in the home.
When palliative treatment is given at the end of life, care is taken to make sure the patient's wishes about treatments he or she wants to receive are followed.
Hospice programs provide care given by experts on end-of-life issues.
Hospice is a program that gives care to people who are near the end of life and have stopped treatment to cure or control their cancer. Hospice care is usually meant for patients who are not expected to live longer than six months. Hospice care focuses on quality of life rather than length of life. The goal of hospice is to help patients live each day to the fullest by making them comfortable and relieving their symptoms. This may include palliative care to control pain and other symptoms so the patient can be as alert and comfortable as possible. Services to help and support the emotional, social, and spiritual needs of patients and their families are also an important part of hospice care.
Hospice programs are designed to keep a patient at home with family and friends, but hospice programs also provide services in hospice centers and in some hospitals and nursing home facilities. The hospice team includes doctors, nurses, spiritual advisors, social workers, nutritionists, and volunteers. Team members are specially trained on issues that occur at the end-of-life. After the patient's death, the hospice program continues to offer support, including grief or bereavement counseling.