Senior Resources » Hospice Care » What is Palliative Care?

What is Palliative Care?

Palliative care is any type of medical or holistic care that provides comfort, relieves pain or other bothersome symptoms, or meets the emotional, spiritual, and practical needs of the patient.

palliative care blocks

Palliative care is for improving one’s quality of life. Its purpose is to treat the whole person – not just the illness. A person can receive palliative and curative care at the same time.

Who Can Use Palliative Care and When?

Palliative care is best used by anyone who is living with a serious, terminal, or life-limiting illness. Care can begin at any time when either the patient requests it or a healthcare professional recommends it. Some common illnesses that often require some level of comfort care are:

  • Cancer
  • AIDS
  • Alzheimer’s Disease
  • ALS
  • Kidney disease
  • Parkinson’s Disease

Example: A person receiving chemotherapy may experience nausea and vomiting as a side effect. A doctor may prescribe medications to lessen these symptoms so that a patient is more comfortable while receiving treatment. This is palliative care.

What Symptoms Can Palliative Care Treat?

There is a wide range of symptoms it can help alleviate. Here are some of the most common:

  • Pain
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Depression
  • Weakness
  • Fatigue
  • Constipation
  • Loss of appetite
  • Anxiety
  • And, more.

Are Palliative Care and Hospice Care the Same?

No. While palliative care can be received at the same time as hospice care, they are not the same thing. Hospice is medical support used when a patient is near the end of life. A person must have a life expectancy of 6 months or less to use hospice. No treatment received in hospice care is curative.

How Can Palliative Care Help?

Palliative care relieves symptoms and makes living with a serious illness or other life-limiting condition easier. Your care plan is tailored to your needs. Along with symptom management, your plan may include support, advice, family counseling, and even help with advance care planning.


How Can You Pay For Palliative Care?

Well, that depends. Out-of-pocket is always an option. However, healthcare insurance will pay for treatments, procedures, and medications all depending on what your policy covers. It’s best to check your policy or call the insurance company to ask. Also, Medicare will pay for some palliative care if it’s doctor recommended as part of a hospice care plan.

Additional Resources

National Institute on Aging

National Cancer Institute

Click here to find home care near you.

Want to learn more about hospice? Then start here.


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Originally published July 07, 2022

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