What Is Palliative Care?

Palliative (pal-lee-uh-tiv) care is specialized medical care for people with serious illnesses. This type of care is focused on providing patients with relief from the symptoms, pain, and stress of a serious illness – whatever the diagnosis. The goal is to improve quality of life for both the patient and the family. Palliative care is provided by a team 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 treatment.

While all hospice patients receive palliative care, hospice care is focused on the final months or weeks of life and is formalized care intended to be provided at the end of an illness. Palliative care by itself, however, is useful in many care settings and can be provided along with treatments intended to improve or cure a condition. Individuals receiving palliative care may be at any point in their illness and do not have to qualify for this kind of care in the manner hospice patients must.

Palliative care is a growing medical specialty and is generally provided by a physician, nurse practitioner, clinical nurse specialist or team of these professionals in an inpatient hospital, outpatient clinic or cancer center environment. There is currently no formalized reimbursement for this kind of care and most palliative care is provided as a part of the overall treatment plan for certain chronic or serious illnesses to assist in managing symptoms and controlling pain as well as coping with stress.

Because palliative care is not a place, it may be difficult to locate a provider of this kind of care in your geographic area. We are gathering a simple directory that lists the name and contact information for palliative care providers throughout the state of Georgia. These providers may be hospitals, outpatient clinics or cancer centers and they have developed a formal palliative care program based on national standards of palliative care. (Directory to be posted soon!)