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What Is Palliative Care?

Although palliative care and hospice focus on the quality of life by reducing pain and providing support, there are significant differences between the two. Hospice is specifically for those with an advanced illness and who have chosen not to continue curative treatment. In contrast, palliative care can be provided at any time and works in conjunction with other medical treatments. 


What Is It?

Palliative care is intended to enhance the quality of life for an individual and their family by easing pain and discomfort and reducing stress. It is provided by a specially-trained team of doctors, nurses, therapists, and specialists who work with the patient’s other healthcare providers to offer an extra layer of support. Palliative care can be provided along with curative treatment and does not replace other therapies, such as chemotherapy, dialysis, or surgery. 


Palliative care services may include: 

  • Pain and symptom management

  • Helping to understand choices for medical treatment

  • Care coordination with the primary healthcare team 

  • Advocacy and navigation of the healthcare system

  • Helping with advance directives and ensuring that wishes are known and documented

  • Counseling and spiritual care 

  • Nutrition counseling


Who Can Receive It? 

Palliative care is designed for anyone with a serious health condition or illness, such as heart failure, kidney failure, liver failure, COPD, cancer, dementia, or Parkinson's, and anyone experiencing significant discomfort or pain.  It is based on the patient's needs, not the prognosis, and therefore is appropriate at any age or stage of an illness.  A person can continue receiving palliative care as long as needed. Find out if palliative care is right for your loved one


Who Provides It and Where?

Many hospitals, healthcare systems, home health agencies, hospice agencies, and private companies offer palliative care services. Services can be provided at home, in the hospital, living facility, or clinic.  Talk with your loved one’s healthcare provider to find out whether they have a specialized palliative care team or search for a program


Since palliative care can help ensure that a patient is getting the medical attention they need, programs that provide home visits can be a good option for those who have difficulty getting to their doctors’ appointments or who miss appointments.


What Is the Cost?

Medicare, Medicaid, and most private insurance plans will cover the medical portions of palliative care.  Depending on health insurance, a referral from the primary doctor may be required. Check with the palliative care provider to learn if they will bill insurance and for any non-covered charges. Veterans enrolled in the VA health system are eligible, as long as they have a clinical need. 

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