Health Advocate Blog

How palliative care can help a loved one

In recognition of National Hospice & Palliative Care Month, take a few minutes to learn more about how palliative care can help people who may be in need of extra medical care and support due to symptoms related to a serious illness. If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with a serious or chronic condition, palliative care is a holistic approach to treatment that can help improve quality of life for those affected and their families.

What is palliative care?

Palliative care is a fairly new and unique approach to medical care that centers on improving the quality of life for people with serious illnesses by providing comfort and relief from both symptoms and stress related to their condition. Typically, a team of specialists work together with the patient’s other doctors to offer extra support and a holistic approach to care. The team can include chaplains, social workers, nutritionists, pain specialists and others, depending on the patient’s needs and wishes. Along with the patient and his or her family, the palliative care team ensures the patient is comfortable, has access to necessary resources and care, and understands all available treatment options.

While the treatments and services offered through palliative care can vary based on the patient and their needs, it generally focuses on pain management; relieving symptoms related to treatments such as nausea, loss of appetite, depression and others; and providing emotional and day-to-day support to help the patient tackle the wide variety of challenges their condition creates throughout their life.

How does palliative care differ from hospice?

Patients receiving palliative care are often undergoing treatment for their condition at the same time. It can begin at any time once someone has been diagnosed to help manage symptoms or other issues related to the condition or treatment.

Hospice is generally for patients who are no longer receiving treatment for their disease and are considered terminally ill or who doctors have determined may only have months to live. Care given by hospice providers or at a hospice facility is intended to help the patient remain comfortable, and it is often covered through Medicare.

Who benefits from palliative care?

Palliative care can help anyone who has been diagnosed with a serious or chronic condition, including cancer, multiple sclerosis, cardiac disease, respiratory disease, AIDS and many others. Contrary to common perceptions, palliative care is not the same as hospice care. Palliative care can benefit patients at any stage of their illness and can be offered in combination with traditional medical treatments that are intended to help the patient recover.

How can someone access palliative care?

Palliative care is covered by most insurance plans, similar to other medical services you receive. While care can be provided in a hospital setting, patients can also work with a palliative care team through outpatient clinics, long-term-care facilities or even at their home. If you or a family member could benefit from palliative care, talk with your/their doctor to discuss coordinating these services.

For Health Advocate members

If you’re a Health Advocate member, your Personal Health Advocate can provide more information about palliative care or hospice resources and help you find specialists or facilities in your area who are covered by your insurance plan.

Other helpful resources:

To learn more about how palliative care can help you or a loved one who is affected by a serious or chronic condition, please visit any of the website below for additional information: