Palliative care focuses on improving the overall quality of life for people facing cancer or another serious illness. 

It never takes the place of aggressive treatment. Instead, it helps address the physical, intellectual, emotional and social needs of the patient and their loved ones. It is support and caring when they need it most. 
Palliative care can occur at the same time as all other care and does not depend on the patient’s prognosis. Patients and their families can expect the following:

  • Explanation of disease and prognosis
  • Communication with their doctors
  • Assistance with care planning and advance directives
  • Assistance with decisions around life-extending measures
  • Counseling and emotional support
  • Information on community resources
  • Improved quality of life for patients and their families
  • Review of symptoms including pain, fatigue, shortness of breath, nausea and others

Palliative Care vs. Hospice Care

Palliative care is closely associated with hospice care, but it is not always for people who are terminally ill. Both palliative and hospice care share goals of providing comfort and pain relief and focusing on quality of life, but the differences are:

Palliative Care:

  • Focus is on pain and symptom management
  • Patient does not have to be terminal
  • Individual may still be seeking aggressive treatment


  • Focus is on pain and symptoms management
  • Patient has a terminal diagnosis with life expectancy of less than six months
  • Individual is not seeking curative treatment

Most insurance plans, including Medicare and Medicaid, cover palliative care services.