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Pain Management Health Center

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Pain Management: Palliative Care

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Palliative care is a special type of medical care that focuses on treatment of symptoms people may have when they are living with a chronic (longstanding) illness, such as cancer or heart failure. It is often compared to the hospice care that is offered to terminally ill people.

In palliative care, the goal is to provide the best quality of life possible -- even if someone is not terminally ill. Palliative care can be used when a person is getting treatment for a disease and when there is no useful treatment for the disease.

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Features of Palliative Care

Palliative care deals with the treatment of problems including pain, nausea, loss of appetite, depression, and fatigue. All symptoms are addressed, including physical, emotional, and spiritual problems.

Another key feature of palliative care is its focus on the patient's family, as well. Chronic illness puts special stress on families, and having support can be very helpful. Talking about and planning for the future can help prepare a person and the person's family to make the best choices for everyone involved.

What Is the Difference Between Palliative Care and Hospice?

Hospice care is a special form of palliative care offered to those with chronic illness who may have less than six months to live. The focus is on caring for the patient and his or her symptoms, not curing the disease. All doctors can admit a patient directly to hospice.

What Are the Benefits of Palliative Care?

High-quality palliative care can make the difference between a comfortable existence and one that involves much suffering. Palliative care also can help a patient's loved ones begin to deal with the issues of grief and bereavement.

Where Is Palliative Care Provided?

Palliative care is being offered in more and more hospitals throughout the country. It may also be available in outpatient clinic or home settings. To find doctors certified in palliative medicine, go to the web site for the American Board of Hospice and Palliative Medicine at

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Melinda Ratini, DO, MS on April 08, 2015
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