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Caring for More Than Health in Patients With Life-Limiting Illnesses

Many people living with a serious illness, whether it’s heart failure, lung disease, cancer, or another, don’t have access to palliative care, which can make all the difference in how they feel physically, emotionally, and spiritually. 

New U.S. national palliative care guidelines aim to improve access to this care, which provides relief from the symptoms and stress of serious illness, improves quality of life for both the patient and the patient’s family, and can be delivered concurrently with disease-focused treatments.

By the book

To improve access to this care, the new “Clinical Practice Guidelines for Quality Palliative Care, 4th Edition” urges clinicians and healthcare organizations to integrate palliative care into the services they already provide people living with serious illness, regardless of their diagnosis, prognosis, or age. The guidelines also call for palliative care to be available wherever people receive their care, including at outpatient clinics, cancer centers, long-term care facilities, office practices, homeless shelters, dialysis units, and at home.

National healthcare organizations concur. More than 90 organizations have endorsed the guidelines, including the American Cancer Society, American Heart Association/American Stroke Association, American Academy of Pediatrics, American Board of Internal Medicine, American College of Surgeons, and American Nurses Association.

The guidelines include tools, resources and practice examples to help with implementation. They expand on the eight domains of palliative care: physical aspects; psychological and psychiatric; social; spiritual, religious, and existential; and cultural aspects of care, as well as the general structure and process for care, and best practices for caring for a patient at the end of their life.The purpose of the guidelines is to improve access to quality palliative care by fostering consistent standards and continuity of care across settings. This will allow people living with serious illness and their families to receive the best care possible. Learn more at

Betty Ferrell, Ph.D., M.A., FAAN, FPCN, Steering Committee Co-Chair, National Consensus Project for Quality Palliative Care, [email protected]

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