What is palliative care?

Jump To

Differences between hospice and palliative care: Overview

Palliative care is treatment to help you feel better in body, mind, and spirit while doctors also treat your illness. It can include care such as pain relief, counseling, and nutrition services. It can also include helping you and those close to you to:

  • Understand your illness better.
  • Talk more openly about your feelings.
  • Decide what treatment you want or don't want.
  • Communicate better with your doctors, nurses, and each other.

You can receive palliative care at any time during a serious illness. You don't have to be near death to get this care.

Hospice is a type of palliative care. But it's for people who are near the end of life. Its goal is to help you feel better and get the most out of the time you have left. But you no longer get treatment to try to cure your illness.

Palliative care

Palliative care is a kind of medical care for people who have serious and chronic illnesses. Palliative care provides an extra layer of support that can improve quality of life for the person who is sick and for that person's family.

Many people combine palliative care with other types of treatment.

Palliative care can help manage symptoms, pain, or side effects from treatment. It can help people cope with their feelings about living with a serious illness. It can also help with communication, so all the health professionals providing care for a person understand their shared goals. It may even help with planning for future medical care.

Palliative care can help a person of any age, whether or not that person's illness is terminal. More and more health professionals are using palliative care, and many are specially trained to provide it.

Who provides hospice and palliative care?

Palliative care: There are doctors and nurses who specialize in this field. But your own doctor may also give some of this care. And there are many other experts who may help you. These include social workers, counselors, therapists, and nutrition experts.

Hospice care: In hospitals, hospice centers, and other facilities, care is given by doctors, nurses, and others who are trained in hospice care. In the home, a family member is often the main caregiver. But the family member gets help from care experts. They are on call 24 hours a day.

What can you expect if your baby has palliative care?

  • Your baby will be kept comfortable and warm.
  • You may see tubes and wires attached to your baby. This can look scary. But these things help the staff take care of your baby. The tubes may supply oxygen, fluid, or medicine to your baby. The wires are attached to machines that keep track of your baby's pulse rate and other vital signs.
  • If your baby has trouble breathing, the doctor may use a ventilator. This machine helps your baby breathe. To do this, the doctor puts a soft tube through your baby's mouth into the windpipe.
  • It's hard to be apart from your baby, especially when you worry about your baby's condition. Know that the hospital staff is well prepared to care for babies receiving palliative care. They will do everything they can to help. If you need it, ask for support from friends and family. You can also ask the hospital staff about counseling and support.

What might you talk about with your palliative care team?

Good communication is a large part of palliative care. Your palliative care team will encourage you to listen to your feelings and to talk about what is most important to you. You might talk about things like your treatment options, how to manage symptoms, and your goals and lifelong dreams.

What concerns might you have about taking opioids as part of palliative care?

Many people are worried that taking opioids will lead to opioid use disorder. Moderate to severe opioid use disorder is sometimes called addiction. This isn't usually an issue in people who are near the end of life. For others, the risk is usually low. But it can be higher if you or a family member has had a substance use disorder. It can also be higher if you are living with mental illness.

Some people may worry about feeling tired or not thinking clearly when they take an opioid. But these side effects often don't last. Many people who take opioids for a long time don't have problems thinking clearly. After you and your doctor find the right amount of medicine for you, you may be able to drive, work, and do other activities.

If you are worried about side effects or developing opioid use disorder, talk to your doctor.

Talk with your doctor about getting a naloxone rescue kit. It can help you if you take too much of an opioid (overdose). Ask your doctor about how to avoid an overdose and how to store your medicine safely.

Differences between hospice and palliative care: Overview

Palliative care helps you feel better in body, mind, and spirit while doctors treat your illness. It includes care such as pain relief and counseling. Hospice is for people nearing the end of life. Its goal is to help you feel better. But you no longer get treatment to try to cure your illness.

When do hospice and palliative care happen?

Palliative care: This care can happen at any time during a serious illness. You don't have to be near death to get this care.

Hospice care: In most cases, you can choose hospice care when your doctor believes that you have no more than about 6 months to live.

What medicines can relieve pain as part of palliative care?

The goal is for you to have the least pain with the fewest side effects. It may take a few tries to find the best medicine for you. If your pain isn't severe, nonprescription medicines may help. These include acetaminophen, aspirin, and ibuprofen. If they don't help, your doctor may prescribe medicines called opioids.

©2011-2024 Healthwise, Incorporated

The content above contains general health information provided by Healthwise, Incorporated, and reviewed by its medical experts. This content should not replace the advice of your healthcare provider. Not all treatments or services described are offered as services by us. For recommended treatments, please consult your healthcare provider.