Frequently Asked Questions About Pediatric Palliative Care

What is pediatric palliative care?

Palliative care is care that focuses on improving the quality of life for people with serious illnesses. Pediatric palliative care is specialized care for children and young adults who have been diagnosed with a serious illness. Palliative care can help patients find relief from the symptoms and stress that might be related to having a serious illness. Palliative care can also provide support to the parents, family, and loved ones of a child or young adult who has a serious illness.

Who can receive pediatric palliative care?

Any child with a serious illness may receive pediatric palliative care. Their families may also receive palliative care.

Who provides pediatric palliative care?

Palliative care is delivered by a team of doctors, nurses, and other caring people like social workers, chaplains, nutritionists, pharmacists, therapists, and others. A pediatric palliative care team may also include child life specialists and therapists who specialize in the unique needs of young people.

What types of services can a child expect from palliative care?

The goal of the palliative care team is to find ways for a child to be as comfortable as possible and as independent as he/she wants to be and to provide parents and loved ones with the support they need. Aspects of pediatric palliative care might include:

  • Meeting with the palliative care team about how to manage an illness including with medication or other therapies;
  • Meeting with social workers to find ways to talk about the illness;
  • Collaborating with the palliative care team to make a plan that is built on the patient and family's wishes;
  • Helping a child continue to be a child even during a serious illness;
  • Receiving various therapies, including animal, art, music, massage, physical, or occupational therapy;
  • Helping a family address practical concerns related to caregiving as well as financial or legal concerns.

When can a child start receiving palliative care?

Palliative care can be provided at any stage of a serious illness from diagnosis on.

Where can a child receive palliative care?

There are a variety of places where you may access pediatric palliative care. Services are flexible and based on the needs of the patient. Pediatric palliative care may be provided by:

  • Hospitals with palliative care consult teams;
  • Outpatient palliative care clinics;
  • Home care agencies;
  • Cancer centers;
  • Pilot programs throughout Greater Minnesota.

Can a child still receive treatments if he or she is receiving palliative care?

Yes, a child can receive treatments while receiving palliative care.

What is the difference between palliative care and hospice?

Palliative care can be provided to a patient who is still receiving care aimed at curing or reversing the effects of a serious illness. Hospice care is generally provided for patients who are diagnosed with a terminal illness and are likely in the final six months of their lives. Hospice patients have elected to forgo or stop other treatments and focus on treatment of symptoms or "comfort care" in the last days, weeks, or months of life. Patients may transition from palliative care to hospice care if they and their doctor determine that hospice care is more appropriate.

Click here to learn more about when to seek hospice

How do I find pediatric palliative care specialists in my area?

Talk to a doctor to find pediatric palliative care services in your area for a child and/or family.

Who pays for pediatric palliative care?

In general, pediatric palliative care services are covered by usual forms of payment for medical services. Some palliative care services may be covered by Medical Assistance, MinnesotaCare, private insurance or managed care programs. Click here for more information on paying for pediatric palliative care.

Click here to learn more about paying for pediatric palliative care