Palliative Care

Palliative care is that care provided to improve quality of life for the patient who has a serious medical condition. Symptoms and side effects of disease are treated and controlled as early as possible. This includes addressing the full range of concerns including emotional, social, spiritual and psychosocial problems. Other names for palliative care include

  • Comfort care
  • Symptom management
  • Supportive care

There are many locations where palliative care is provided, locations include

  • Home under guidance of a physician
  • Hospital
  • Long Term Care Facility
  • Outpatient Clinic

Palliative care manages physical issues such as

  • Shortness of breath
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Pain
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Fatigue

There are often issues with coping and emotional problems as a result of being diagnosed with cancer and planned treatment that palliative care assists with such as

  • Identification of resources to deal with patients’ emotional issues
  • Resource identification to address family member emotional issues
  • Fear
  • Anxiety
  • Depression

The cancer experience impacts the entire family especially the primary caregiver of the patient with cancer, so the needs of the care giver are addressed including

  • Providing caregiver support
  • Assisting caregivers identify resources to assist with patient needs
  • Providing direction to support groups
  • In some instances, offering options for respite

There are other practical needs where palliative care can intervene such as

  • Legal issues
  • Financial concerns
  • Employee issues
  • Questions about insurance
  • How to tell family/children about prognosis
  • Facilitating communication between all involved, patient, family, care team
  • Assisting with advance directives

Palliative care can be provided anywhere along the cancer care continuum, from the time that the patient receives the diagnosis, during treatment, as the patient approaches the end of life, until the patient expires. When palliative care is in the initial treatment plan the registrar will document it in the abstract as first course treatment.

When disease progresses, treatment options are exhausted, and the only option remaining is to keep the patient comfortable as the patient approaches the end of life, Hospice care is often offered when there are no further options for treatment. Hospice helps the patient and family as they cope with the patients impending life end, including ensuring comfort, support and spiritual needs are met.

Updated: December 21, 2023