Palliative care is specialized medical care for people living with serious illness that focuses on the best quality of life for both the patient and his or her family. To palliate comes from the Latin word "palliare," meaning "to cloak," or to ease symptoms without curing the underlying disease. Palliative care is focused on providing patients with relief from the symptoms, pain, and stress of a serious illness - whatever the diagnosis. The primary goal of palliative care is to provide quality of life for the patient and family, achieved through an interdisciplinary approach. The interdisciplinary team consists of doctors, nurses, and other specialists who work with a patient's other doctors to provide an extra layer of support. Palliative care is appropriate at any age and at any stage in a serious illness, and can be provided together with curative-based treatment.
Hospice is a philosophy and delivery system of care that focuses on the palliative care needs of the patient unit (patients and caregivers), to relieve suffering and promote comfort during the last months of life when curative-based therapy is no longer desired, no longer an option, or no longer helping the patient to feel better and/or live longer.
Palliative care principles and basic skill sets should be integrated into the daily clinical practice of patient care, regardless of the underlying illness or stage of disease.
Hospice care should be considered for patients facing serious illness with anticipated life expectancy of 6 months or less.
For updates on diagnosis and management of coexisting conditions during the pandemic, see our topic "Management of coexisting conditions in the context of COVID-19".
- Outpatient palliative care services
- Hospice-care services
- Need for palliative care
- Role of prognostication
- Goals of care
- Comprehensive palliative care assessment
- Illness trajectories
- Overview of common symptoms experienced by patients in the palliative care setting
- Overview of treatment of the seriously ill patient
- Pain management
- Tools to document advance-care planning
- Palliative sedation and medical aid in dying
Jeanie Youngwerth, MD
Associate Professor of Medicine
University of Colorado Hospital Palliative Care Service
University of Colorado School of Medicine
JY is an unpaid member of the National Comprehensive Cancer Network Adult Cancer Pain Guidelines Panel. JY is an author of several references cited in this topic.
Oliver Minton, PhD, FRCP
Brighton and Sussex University Hospital
OM declares that he has no competing interests.
Diane E. Meier, MD
Gaisman Professor of Medical Ethics
Departments of Geriatrics and Medicine
Hertzberg Palliative Care Institute
Center to Advance Palliative Care
Mount Sinai School of Medicine
DEM has received HIH-NCI ROI funding greater than 6 figures USD. DEM declares that she has no competing interests.
Cari Levy, MD
Assistant Professor of Medicine
University of Colorado School of Medicine and the Denver Veterans Affairs Medical Center
CL declares that she has no competing interests.
Cordt Kassner, PhD
Chief Executive Officer
Colorado Center for Hospice & Palliative Care
CK declares that he has no competing interests.
Irene J. Higginson, BM, BS, BMedSci, PhD, FFPHM, FRCP
Palliative Care, Policy and Rehabilitation
King's College London/King's Healthcare Partners
IJH declares that she has no competing interests.
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