What is Palliative Care?

Palliative medicine is a medical subspecialty provided by doctors who offer palliative care for people who are seriously ill. Palliative care relieves suffering and improves quality of life for people of any age, and at any stage in a serious illness, whether that illness is curable, chronic or life-threatening.

Palliative care:

  • Provides relief from pain and other uncomfortable symptoms.
  • Assists you in making difficult medical decisions.
  • Coordinates care with your other doctors and helps you navigate the often-complex health care system.
  • Guides you in making a plan for living well, based on your needs, concerns and goals for care.
  • Provides you and your loved ones emotional and spiritual support and guidance.

Palliative care is provided by a team that may include a doctor who specializes in palliative medicine, a nurse, pharmacist, social worker, dietician, volunteers and others.

Q. What's the difference between palliative care and hospice care?

A. Palliative care is whole-person care that relieves symptoms of a disease or disorder whether or not it can be cured. You can receive palliative care at any stage of a serious illness, whether that illness is potentially curable, chronic or life-threatening.

Hospice is a specific type of palliative care for people who likely have six months or less to live. In other words, hospice care is always palliative, but not all palliative care is hospice care.

If you have a serious illness, you may be seeing a hospitalist, personal physician or specialist. Ask your doctor if palliative care might be helpful for you.

(Source: American Academy of Hospice & Palliative Medicine)


Pediatric Palliative Care

Dealing with the diagnosis of a serious illness in a child is difficult for the entire family. It is important that your child, your family, and you get the support and care you need during this hard time. A special type of care called palliative (pal-lee-uh-tiv) care can help. Palliative care is a key part of care for children living with a serious illness. It is also an important source of support for their families.

The National Institute of Nursing Research has created a series of videos, handouts and information addressing frequently asked questions about the use of palliative care with pediatric patients. These materials are available online. Click here to learn more.

NHPCO’s Facts and Figures: Pediatric Palliative and Hospice Care in America, 2015 Edition  (pdf)

Palliative Care for Children: Support for the Whole Family When Your Child Is Living with a Serious Illness (pdf)