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Palliative Care Center

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Topic Overview

What is palliative care?

It is hard to live with a serious illness. You may feel lonely, angry, scared, or sad. You may feel that your treatment is doing more harm than good. You may have pain or other disturbing symptoms. Palliative care can help you and your loved ones cope with all of these things.

Palliative care is a kind of care for people who have serious illnesses. It is different from care to cure your illness, called curative treatment. Palliative care focuses on improving your quality of life—not just in your body, but also in your mind and spirit. Sometimes palliative care is combined with curative treatment.

The kind of care you get depends on what you need. Your goals guide your care. Palliative care can help reduce pain or treatment side effects. Palliative care may help you and your loved ones better understand your illness, talk more openly about your feelings, or decide what treatment you want or do not want. It can also help with communication among your doctors, nurses, and loved ones.

Why would I want palliative care?

Palliative care providers are interested in what is bothering you and what is important to you. They want to know how you and your loved ones are doing day-to-day. They understand that your illness affects not just you, but also those you love.

Your palliative care providers will ask questions about how your illness affects your emotions and spirit. Then they will try to make sure that your medical care meets your goals for your body, mind, and spirit. They will also help you make future plans around your health and medical care.

You might see a palliative care provider just once or maybe more often. He or she will work with your other doctors to give you the best care possible.

How is palliative care different from hospice care?

Palliative care is for a person of any age who has a serious illness. For example, you may want palliative care while you are getting treatment for heart failure. Palliative care could help you manage symptoms or side effects of treatment so that you will feel better.

Hospice care provides medical services, emotional support, and spiritual resources for people who are in the last stages of a serious illness, such as cancer or heart failure.

Who is involved in palliative care?

Palliative care actively involves you and your loved ones. Together you will work with health care providers in your doctor's office or your home, or in a hospital, nursing home, or hospice. If you are interested in palliative care, talk with your doctor. He or she may be able to manage your palliative care needs or may refer you to someone who is trained in palliative care.

Many hospitals now have palliative care teams. These teams often include palliative care doctors, nurses, and social workers. The teams may also include spiritual advisors, dietitians, occupational therapists, pharmacists, physical therapists, respiratory therapists, and volunteers.

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: December 29, 2011
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.

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