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What Are Palliative Care and Hospice?

Palliative care is for people of any age, and at any stage of serious illness, whether curable, chronic, or life-threatening. It focuses on improving a patient’s quality of life by managing pain and other distressing symptoms, and providing support for the patient and family. Palliative care should be provided along with other medical treatments.

Hospice is palliative care for patients in their last year of life. It can be provided in patients’ homes, hospice centers, hospitals, long-term care facilities, or wherever patients live.

Putting Patients in Control

In your first meeting with your palliative care team, they will listen to your concerns, needs, and desires in order to understand your wishes for care and what matters most to you. Your team will work with you and your loved ones to come up with a plan to give you control and help you live as well as possible, as you define it. 

They will also continually communicate with you to revise the plan as necessary. By understanding your goals and wishes, both you and the team will be able to develop a treatment plan that works for you.

Members of the hospice and palliative care team can include you, your loved ones, doctors who specialize in palliative medicine, other doctors, nurse practitioners, nurses, social workers, pharmacists, chaplains, physician assistants, physical therapists, dieticians, and volunteers. 

Questions you may be asked by your palliative care team members include:

  • How can we help you live well?
  • What makes you happy?
  • What activities or experiences would you like to do or continue doing so you feel you are living well?
  • Are there any special events or activities you are looking forward to?
  • What are your fears or worries about your illness or medical care?
  • What needs or services would you like to discuss?
  • What do you hope for your family and loved ones?
  • What keeps you going when life’s challenges seem overwhelming?
  • Do you have religious or spiritual needs that are important to you?
  • In what ways do you feel you could make this time especially meaningful to you?
  • If you have to choose between living longer and living more comfortably or energetically, how would you approach this balance?

To learn more about how palliative care and hospice can help you or a loved one, visit, a website developed by the American Academy of Hospice and Palliative Medicine.

Joe Rotella, M.D., Chief Medical Officer, American Academy of Hospice and Palliative Medicine, [email protected]

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