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What is Palliative Care?

Palliative care (pronounced pal-lee-uh-tiv) is specialized medical care for people with serious illnesses. It is focused on providing patients with relief from the symptoms, pain, and stresses of a serious illness—whatever the diagnosis. The goal is to improve quality of life for both the patient and the family.

Palliative care is provided by a team of doctors, nurses, and other specialists who work together with a patient's other doctors to provide an extra layer of support. It is appropriate at any age and at any stage in a serious illness and can be provided along with curative treatment.

How is Palliative Care different from hospice care?

Palliative care is for anyone with a serious illness. You can have it at any age and any stage of an illness, and you can have it along with curative treatment. It is not dependent on prognosis.

Hospice is an important Medicare benefit that provides palliative care for terminally ill patients who may have only months to live. People who receive hospice are also no longer receiving curative treatment for their underlying disease.

Palliative care and hospice are often confused. They are related, but are not the same. Here are some of the differences:


Palliative care is for patients and families dealing with serious illness and treatment effects regardless of diagnosis.

Hospice care is a type of palliative care for patients and families with life-limiting illness offered during the last months of life.


Palliative care helps support patients and families to improve their quality of life while experiencing illness and treatments.

Hospice care helps support patients and families to improve their quality of life even as they approach end of life.


Palliative care is available at any time for those experiencing serious illness and treatments.

Hospice care is especially for those with illness progressed toward end of life.

Who can benefit from palliative care?

Palliative care is appropriate for anyone suffering a serious, chronic or life-threatening illness (e.g. cancer, cardiac disease, respiratory disease, kidney failure, Alzheimer's, AIDS, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and more). You can receive palliative care at any age at any stage of an illness.

Who else, besides the patient, can benefit?

Everyone involved!

Patients as well as family caregivers are the special focus of palliative care. Your doctors and nurses benefit too, because they know they are meeting your needs by providing care and treatment that reduces your suffering and improves your quality of life.

How does palliative care work?

  • It helps coordinate a person's care and helps them navigate the medical system.
  • It helps individuals and families manage the pain, symptoms, and stress of serious illness.
  • It greatly improves the quality of their life, and it helps them and their family better understand and cope with the situation.

Do you have to give up your own doctor?

No. Palliative care teams are consultants and work along with the primary doctor and other specialists in your care.

How do you pay for palliative care?

Palliative care is treated in the same way as medical services (e.g. cardiology). Most insurance plans, including Medicare and Medicaid, cover all or part of palliative care.

How do you get palliative care?

Ask for it! Talk to your provider or nurse.

Here at UMMC, the Palliative Care team is a consulting service. They partner with you, your family and all your care providers to manage physical symptoms and clinical situations typical for those in hospital with serious illnesses.

The UMMC Palliative Care team staff are available for consultations with you, your family and your care teams: Monday - Friday, 8:00 - 4:30, via Pager #1809, except holidays.

Who provides palliative Care?

Palliative care is provided by a team of doctors, nurses, social workers, chaplains and other specialists. They work together with a patient's other doctors to provide an extra layer of support.

By providing a team of doctors, nurses and specialists that can collaborate and evaluate the situation from multiple angles, palliative care assures that each person receives the best possible treatment and care for their conditions.

All hospital staff provide palliative care working with our Palliative Supportive Care team leadership:

  • Heather Manuel, MD, MBA, Interim Medical Director
  • Carmel McComisky, DNP, CRNP, FAANP, FAAN, Director of Palliative Nursing
  • Steven R. Eveland, MBA, RN, CHPN
  • Jennifer L. Goldsborough, DNP, CRNP, ACHPN
  • Marian S. Grant, DNP, ACNP-BC, ACHPN, FPCN, RN
  • Bonnie Marr, MD
  • Ila Mulasi, MD
  • Marguerite Russo, PhD, CRNP-F, ACHPN

What can you expect?

You can expect to have more control over your care and a comfortable and supportive atmosphere that reduces anxiety and stress.

Your plan of care is reviewed each day by the palliative care team and discussed with you to make sure your needs and wishes are being met and that your treatments are in line with your goals.

You can also expect relief from symptoms such as pain, shortness of breath, fatigue, constipation, nausea, loss of appetite and difficulty sleeping.

Palliative care addresses the whole person. It helps you carry on with your daily life. It improves your ability to go through medical treatments. And it helps you better understand your condition and your choices for medical care. In short, you can expect the best possible quality of life.

Contact Us

If you are interested in contacting the UM Medical Center's Palliative Care program or would like more information, please call 410-328-7849.