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Frequently Asked Questions

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What is palliative care?

Palliative (pronounced pal-lee-uh-tiv) care is a specialty focused on helping you live life as fully as possible by:

  • Optimizing your comfort
  • Providing support for you and your family
  • Helping you make the best decisions for you

Palliative care is delivered by a team of health care professionals that includes physicians, advanced practice providers, nurses, social workers, and spiritual supports. The team specializes in managing symptoms and stressors related to serious illness alongside the supportive medical approaches of oncologists, surgeons, primary care physicians, and other specialists.

Who could benefit from palliative care?

Patients who may benefit from palliative care services include individuals with serious or life threatening illnesses such as cancer, CHF, COPD, and dementia.

Palliative care can be delivered at any point during the illness.

What types of symptoms can palliative care address?

Typical symptoms addressed by palliative care specialists include, but are not limited to:

  • Pain (all types including visceral, somatic, neuropathic)
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Appetite
  • Shortness of breath
  • Anxiety and depression
  • Fatigue

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Other than symptom management, what else can palliative care do?

As part of a patient-centered approach, a palliative care team allows patients and their families to make plans that reflect their goals and preferences. One approach is to specify goals, such as attending a family event or holiday, staying out of the hospital, maintaining mobility, and helping to overcome symptoms or side effects of certain medications.

Palliative care specialists are experts in helping people find words for discussing options and determining the best path. They help individuals, families, and providers stay on the same page while making decisions. Most important, the palliative care team can advocate for you, helping you maintain as much control as possible over your care.

Is palliative care the same as “hospice”?

No. This is a common source of confusion. Palliative care is an all­ inclusive term for care devoted to improving comfort and helping patients live their best possible life. Palliative care is for people of any age with any serious medical condition, including patients that expect to make a complete recovery. Palliative care can be offered at any point along the management of the disease, even during active and curative treatments.

In contrast, hospice is a specialized type of care for people whose life expectancy is 6 months (or less), whether due to chronic disease, sudden illness or injury, or normal aging. Hospice care focuses on managing comfort and supports at the end-of-life.

Where can I find more information about palliative care?

  • Ask your primary care provider or specialist
  • Contact the BHS Palliative Care Office
  • getpalliativecare.org

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