Palliative care (derived from the Latin root palliare, or “to cloak”) is an interdisciplinary medical caregiving approach aimed at optimizing quality of life and mitigating suffering among people with serious, complex illness. Within the published literature, many definitions of palliative care exist. The World Health Organization describes palliative care as “an approach that improves the quality of life of patients and their families facing the problems associated with life-threatening illness, through the prevention and relief of suffering by means of early identification and impeccable assessment and treatment of pain and other problems, physical, psychosocial, and spiritual.” In the past, palliative care was a disease specific approach, but today the World Health Organization takes a more broad approach, that the principles of palliative care should be applied as early as possible to any chronic and ultimately fatal illness.
Palliative care is appropriate for individuals with serious illnesses across the age spectrum and can be provided as the main goal of care or in tandem with curative treatment. It is provided by an interdisciplinary team which can include physicians, nurses, occupational and physical therapists, psychologists, social workers, chaplains, and dietitians. Palliative care can be provided in a variety of contexts including hospitals, outpatient, skilled-nursing, and home settings. Although an important part of end-of-life care, palliative care is not limited to individuals near the end of life.
Evidence supports the efficacy of a palliative care approach in improvement of a patient’s quality of life.
Palliative care’s main focus is to improve the quality of life for those with chronic illnesses. It is commonly the case that palliative care is provided at the end of life, but it can be for a patient of any age.
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