Frequently Asked Questions About Palliative Care

What is palliative care?

Palliative care is care that focuses on improving the quality of life for people with serious illnesses. It helps them find relief from the symptoms and stress that might be related to having a serious illness. Palliative care also provides support to family and loved ones. Palliative care can be provided at any time during a serious illness and a patient can continue to seek treatment to cure or reverse the effects of a serious illness while receiving palliative care.

What is considered a "serious illness?"

Cardiac disease, respiratory disease, kidney failure, Alzheimer's, certain cancers, ALS, and Parkinson's are some examples of serious illnesses, but palliative care can help individuals with many other illnesses as well. Ask your doctor if palliative care is right for you.

Who provides 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. The team offers support that focuses on a patient's unique needs.

Can I ask for palliative care while being treated for my illness?

Yes. You can receive palliative care while receiving any treatments that may cure or reverse the effects of an illness.

Where can I receive palliative care?

Palliative care can be provided in a patient's home or in a hospital with a palliative care team, outpatient palliative care clinics, long term care or assisted living facilities, or other treatment centers such as cancer clinics.

What types of services can I expect from palliative care?

The goal of palliative care is to find ways for you to be as comfortable and independent as you would like to be. This might include:

  • Talking with doctors and nurses about how to manage your illness, including with medication or other therapies;
  • Meeting with social workers to find ways to talk to family members and loved ones about your illness;
  • Collaborating with a team to make a plan that is built on your values and wishes;
  • Receiving massage,music, or other therapy from certified therapists to help with pain and stress;
  • Helping you access financial or legal help if needed.

Who pays for palliative care?

Medicare Part B and Medicaid offer some coverage for palliative care benefits, as do some private insurance plans. Check with your individual insurance provider to see if palliative care is covered. The palliative care team can also help you with financial questions or concerns.

Click here for more information on paying for 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 care

How can I get palliative care?

Ask! Talk with your doctor and let him/her know that you want to learn more about palliative care. Contact MNHPC if you would like assistance in finding palliative care services.

Click here for a printable document of frequently asked questions about palliative care