Written by: Lorena De La Rosa, NP

What is palliative care?

I am frequently asked by my patients: what is palliative care and why do I need it? Misconceptions about palliative care amongst both medical professionals and patients has been a barrier to accessing these services in a timely and meaningful way. A barrier that I hope to slowly break down by way of education and advocacy for palliative care utilization.

Palliative care is a medical specialty appropriate for individuals with chronic illness. Palliative care can be provided at any time during a patient’s illness, even as early as initial diagnosis. It is meant to holistically support the patient and their caregivers by providing guidance for symptom management, education and counseling related to their specific disease process, facilitating ongoing goals of care discussions, and focusing on quality of life.

Palliative care is often confused with hospice care, which is specialized medical care for individuals who have a life expectancy of six months or less. It is important to keep in mind that all hospice care is palliative care, but not all palliative care is hospice. Palliative care allows specialized medical care that is not restricted by prognosis and can function concurrently with curative treatments.

Why palliative care?

One of the greatest benefits to palliative care is having access to a specially-trained team that supplement your existing care and act as an extra layer of support when medical care becomes complex. The palliative care team is able to provide extended visits to allow enough time to listen and counsel to what each individual needs. We understand that a person is not just their illness and work to support and achieve goals that enhance quality of life.

Who is eligible for palliative care?

Palliative care is available to anyone, regardless of age or stage of their chronic illness. Patients and caregivers can ask their existing medical team about palliative care and request a referral for services. Palliative care is covered by most insurance plans.

We Are Here For You

As palliative care becomes increasingly utilized by healthcare systems, program benefits and accessibility will continue to grow. By providing in-depth chronic disease education, supplemental symptom management, and continuous goals of care conversations, palliative care aims to empower patients to achieve their healthcare wishes in a meaningful, holistic way.

I encourage you to speak with your existing healthcare team about palliative care if you feel it could be beneficial. You are in control of the journey – let palliative care help you with the possibilities.