Palliative care (pronounced “pal-lee-uh-tiv”) is a type of medical care. It aims to improve the quality of life for people affected by a serious illness. This includes both the patient and their loved ones.

Palliative care can help manage many issues for you and your family related to your serious illness. Here are some areas it may address:

  • Physical pain or symptoms (such as nausea, difficulties breathing or sleeping)
  • Psychological or social needs
  • Religious or spiritual needs
  • Cultural needs
  • Ethical and legal needs
  • Coordination of care
  • Care for patients at the end of life

Palliative care acts as an extra layer of support. It can help manage physical pain and symptoms of serious illness. It can aid with emotional pain and stress relief. Yet, your palliative care team doesn’t stop there. During your treatment, you may have to work with many doctors. It’s easy to get confused with so many people involved. This is where your palliative care team can help. They will work with your other doctors and medical team to give you the care you need and want. They can also help answer questions about your illness and treatment options.

You and your family might have other concerns about religious or spiritual needs. You might need cultural (e.g. language) or social support. Ethical or legal concerns may come up during your care. Your palliative care team works with you and others to best support you. 

These services are offered at most, but not all, hospitals. If you or your family have uncontrolled physical pain or negative emotions, you should always tell your doctor. If you have any other needs described above, don’t hesitate to ask your doctor about palliative care.

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