January 2014

Palliative care is a branch of medicine devoted to improving quality of life for people diagnosed with serious illnesses. Receiving such care can make a huge difference in patients' lives, but many people do not know that it exists, or confuse it with hospice care. One of the hurdles to overcome in making this relatively new specialty more widely available is helping people understand when it is appropriate and why it is so important.

Palliative care focuses on providing relief from the pain, stress and other symptoms of serious illnesses. Hospice care is a type of palliative care that focuses on people who are dying. However, palliative care is also appropriate for patients who are continuing treatment for their illnesses and are expected to live much longer or even recover.

In hospitals and other settings where palliative care is provided, it is delivered by a team of doctors, nurses and specialists to provide additional support beyond that provided by the patient's primary treatment team. A palliative care team may assist patients with cancer, cardiac or pulmonary disease, Alzheimer's Parkinson's, ALS or other illnesses. The team concentrates on addressing symptoms such as pain, fatigue, nausea and depression, improving patients' ability to endure necessary medical treatments and bettering their quality of life.

Pain relief is often a major focus of palliative care. Patients who have serious illnesses or are recovering from major surgery may suffer from debilitating pain, and both doctor and patient may be wary of opioid use because of the danger of dependence. However, pain relief is an important part of treatment, and a palliative care team can help a patient find the best way to relieve suffering...Click here to read more.


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