How Palliative Care can be a Lifesaver

This post is based on Episode 8 of Getting the Best Care-The Insider’s Healthcare Podcast.

Palliative Care is a specialty of medicine that focuses on helping people who have a serious illness which impacts their quality of life. Palliative Care doctors and advance practice nurses are experts at dealing with the distressing symptoms of and side effects from illnesses such as kidney failure, cancer, emphysema, HIV and heart failure. They also help people to have strategies on how to make the most of their lives even with an illness and the treatments of that illness which may limit daily functioning.

Palliative Care is appropriate at any phase of a serious illness and can be gotten while pursuing aggressive curative treatments. It is just an addition to your other healthcare, not in place of it. Just as when you have heart disease you may have a cardiologist while also having a primary care doctor; you can also have a Palliative Care practitioner who is added to your team of healthcare professionals.

There can be confusion between Palliative Care and Hospice Care. Not all Palliative Care IS Hospice Care; but ALL Hospice Care includes Palliative Care. So if you are asking your healthcare providers about possibly adding a Palliative Care consultation to your care and they say something along the lines of, “Oh, you are not THAT far along, you do not need that , yet,” they may not know the difference between Palliative Care and Hospice Care. Do not let that prevent you from pursuing this very worthwhile care.

Palliative Care very often comes from a physician or advanced practice nurse who works for a Hospice organization-but that does NOT make you a Hospice patient. I am a proponent of Hospice Care for people who have a life expectancy of fewer that 6 months, but that is a relatively small percentage of the people who can benefit from Palliative Care services.

If you , or someone you love has a serious life-limiting illness, please investigate getting Palliative Care to supplement the work of your primary care provider. This can be especially helpful if there is a diagnosis of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. Dementia and Alzheimer’s are not just problems with memory loss-they are illnesses that can affect every aspect of someone’s health. Having a Palliative Care specialist will help to deal compassionately with the effects of the disease on the patient as well as the impact on the family.

For more information about Palliative Care, go to the website: