Palliative Care

Palliative care is a partnership among the patient, medical specialists and the family—often viewed as an extra layer of support.

What is palliative care?
Palliative (pronounced pal-lee-uh-tiv) care is specialized medical care with a team approach. It focuses on addressing the pain, symptoms and stress of serious illnesses by offering an extra layer of support. The goal is to improve the quality of life for both the patient and his or her family.

Palliative care can be provided alongside curative treatment. Palliative care is a free service, offered on an inpatient or outpatient basis, and patients may keep their own doctor.

What can the palliative care team do for patients and families?
  • Assist in establishing goals of care and priorities
  • Provide emotional and spiritual support
  • Assist with advance directives
  • Collaborate with nurses and physicians to address the management of symptoms, such as pain, shortness of breath, nausea, fatigue and anxiety
  • Educate to promote understanding of the underlying disease process
  • Provide easy-to-understand explanations of difficult medical conditions
When is palliative care helpful?
Palliative care is best introduced early, but it can be beneficial at any time, including during and after curative treatment. It can help at any stage of serious illness, regardless of prognosis.

It is especially helpful for:
  • Patients with hard-to-treat symptoms
  • Patients and families who need help understanding treatment choices
  • Patients and families who need support when making difficult medical decisions
Is palliative care the same as hospice care?
Palliative care and hospice share the same core principles of providing patient- and family-centered care. However, palliative care is available during any phase of a chronic illness, while hospice is for those who have a life expectancy of 6 months or less.

Other Resources
Center to Advance Palliative Care website
Maryland MOLST website
National Health Care Decisions Day website
The Conversation Project website
Palliative Care: You Are A Bridge (video)
Before It's Too Late: Advance Directives (video)
NPR: "The Town Where Everyone Talks About Death" (article and audio)

Ask your practitioner if palliative care could help you. For more information, please call 410-871-8000.