September 13, 2019

What is Palliative Care & How is it Different from Hospice?

what is palliative care


Palliative (pronounced pal-lee-uh-tiv) care is a specialized type of care provided to people with life-threatening illnesses. The World Health Organization (WHO) defines it as:

“An approach that improves the quality of life of patients and their families facing the problem 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.”

What is Palliative Care?

While palliative care takes many forms, it is often associated with pain management and home health care.

Palliative Care vs. Hospice Care

Palliative care and hospice care are related in their goal of providing patients who have a serious illness with compassionate measures that address their physical, emotional and spiritual needs. However, they are distinct areas of medical practice.

Hospice care is focused on assisting terminally ill patients in the last six months of life when treatment of their illness is no longer effective and has been discontinued. It can include a wide range of actions, from administering medication to helping with bathing and dressing.

Palliative care, which is always a component of hospice care, may also be used to relieve symptoms in situations where a patient is still receiving treatment for their illness. The only difference with Palliative care is that the patient can continue with curative treatment while receiving these services.

When is Palliative Care Used?

Palliative care is employed to improve the quality of life for people with a wide variety of illnesses, including:

What Issues or Challenges Does It Help Address?

This type of care typically involves a team of experts focused on helping a patient with a number of physical and emotional challenges caused by their illness. This can include working with doctors and other caregivers to make sure they understand the patient’s needs and desires regarding the alleviation of symptoms such as:

  • Pain
  • Nausea
  • Fatigue and lack of energy
  • Shortness of breath
  • Depression
  • Insomnia
  • Constipation
  • Incontinence
  • Loss of appetite
  • Anxiety


Palliative care can also help with addressing issues and challenges that come about during end of life care. This includes:

Learning to Cope Better

One of the most important palliative care issues is helping patients confront their condition more directly and effectively. The goal is to encourage optimism, flexibility, and resourcefulness in dealing with end of life care issues. Better coping skills also minimize unhelpful behaviors like denial, projection, and noncompliance.

Preserving Dignity

A significant concern of many patients and one of the challenges of palliative care is the preservation of dignity. This often has to do with helping them maintain as much independence and autonomy as possible.

Maintaining a Sense of Control

Some patients have a strong need to maintain control during the dying process. How to accommodate that need is another of the palliative care issues and challenges that providers face. Their expertise in this area can help give patients peace of mind.

Having Support During Difficult Conversations with Loved Ones

Many palliative care issues involve communication. Having assistance and support when talking with family members can be very reassuring. Palliative care providers know how to address difficult topics in a way that is both direct and sensitive.

Palliative care teams also provide support and assistance to patients’ families. This includes ensuring that changes in a patient’s care or health status are communicated promptly and clearly to loved ones, as well as assisting family members in their bereavement.

Palliative care encourages patients and their families to affirm life while recognizing that death is a normal process. If you or a loved one are suffering from a serious illness, your doctor can talk with you about whether palliative care is right for you, and if so, what options are available. Baptist Health is here to help you work through any issues and challenges that arise from palliative care.

Learn More About Palliative Care with Baptist Health

Take charge of your or a loved one’s condition and contact Baptist Health with any questions about palliative care.

Learn More.