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Palliative Care

Center to Advance Palliative Care

The American Liver Foundation is pleased to announce a partnership with the Center to Advance Palliative Care, an organization dedicated to improving health care for people facing serious illness by increasing access to quality palliative care.

Palliative care is specialized medical care for people with serious illnesses. It focuses on providing patients with relief from symptoms, pain and stress — whatever the person’s age, stage of illness, diagnosis and prognosis. The goal is to improve quality of life for both the patient and the family.

Palliative care is a medical specialty — like oncology or psychiatry — that is provided by a team of doctors, nurses and other specialists who work alongside a patient’s other doctors to offer an extra layer of support. It can be provided along with curative and life-prolonging treatment.

Palliative care is for anyone suffering from serious illnesses such as cancer, cardiac disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or emphysema, kidney failure, Alzheimer’s and other dementias, Parkinson’s and many more. Whether aged 2 or 92, palliative care is an option when a person is experiencing pain and suffering – physically, emotionally and spiritually — from the side effects of their treatment, progression of disease, dealing with a new diagnosis or living with a long-term and life-limiting condition. Palliative care also offers support to families, whether they need help with caring for their loved one at home or social supports, such as home care and meal delivery. Members of the palliative care team can serve as resources, advocates and facilitators for any needs patients and families have — both in and out of the hospital.

Palliative care focuses on symptoms such as pain, shortness of breath, fatigue, constipation, nausea, loss of appetite, difficulty sleeping, anxiety and depression. It also helps patients gain the strength to carry on with daily life. It improves a person’s ability to tolerate and complete their medical treatments.

Palliative care is a team approach to care and includes doctors, nurses and social workers, massage therapists, pharmacists, nutritionists, chaplains and others who can support the patient and family.

The team works alongside patients and their families, providing support every step of the way, not only by controlling symptoms, but also by helping patients have more understanding of and preparation for what to expect. This includes assuring communication about the pros and cons of treatment options and a greater sense of control over their own care.

Working with the patient’s primary doctor, the palliative care team provides:

  • Strengthened patient-family-physician communication
  • Expert management of pain and other symptoms
  • Help navigating the healthcare system
  • Guidance with difficult and complex treatment choices
  • Emotional and spiritual support

No. The palliative care team works hand-in-hand with a patient’s regular doctors. Palliative care is given at the same time as curative and life-prolonging treatments to help improve quality of life. In fact, studies have shown that palliative care can extend life in patients with advanced illness.

Palliative care is covered like any other medical service. It is covered by Medicare, Medicaid and third-party insurers. It is no different than any other area of medicine.

Palliative care is for anyone with a serious condition that affects their quality of life, whatever their age and at any stage of their illness. Patients can receive it along with curative and life-prolonging treatment. It is not dependent on prognosis.

Hospice care is a form of palliative care that is limited only to predictably dying patients. It is provided when patients and their families decide to discontinue life-prolonging therapies in order to focus on maximizing comfort and quality of life, either because these treatments are no longer beneficial or because the burden of side effects outweigh the benefits. This typically occurs when patients are entering the last weeks or months of life. Hospice care provides comprehensive palliative care, mostly in the place the patient calls home.

Though people often confuse palliative and hospice care, in fact, it was the need for palliative care for those patients living with, but not dying from a long-term serious illness that led to the growth in hospital palliative care teams in the United States.

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) includes provisions that align with the goals of palliative care.

The seriously ill and those with multiple chronic conditions and functional impairment constitute about 10% of all patients in the United States but account for well over half of the nation’s healthcare costs. This is the palliative care patient population — those with the greatest quality-of-life challenges from their illness, and those forced to rely on ERs and hospitals when their needs are not met at home. Since the ACA emphasizes quality care that meets patient and family goals and priorities in their own communities, hospitals and other healthcare providers will be encouraged to deliver treatments in the setting best suited for the specific patient. Many provisions in the Affordable Care Act, such as Accountable Care Organizations, patient-centered medical homes (also called Health Homes), bundled payments for a single episode of healthcare and hospital value-based purchasing programs, are driving much greater interest in palliative care.

In a little more than a decade, the number of hospitals that have palliative care programs has nearly quadrupled from around 500 to about 1,900. Those numbers are poised to grow with the aging of the population and the incentives created by the ACA to bring patient-centered care to people where they are, based on what matters most to them. The result of better quality for the sickest and most vulnerable is prevention of unnecessary hospitalizations and ER visits.

If current trends continue, by 2014, eight in ten U.S. hospitals with 50 or more beds will have a palliative care program.

The Center to Advance Palliative Care’s consumer website,

is an excellent resource for the public about palliative care providers who are certified by the National Palliative Care Registry.

Information about hospice can be found at Caring Connections.

The Center to Advance Palliative Care is a national organization that provides healthcare professionals with the tools, training, technical assistance and connectivity platforms to start and sustain successful palliative care programs.

Each year, CAPC organizes a National Seminar, which offers networking opportunities with expert faculty and peers, and technical assistance on program development and sustainability. Attendees represent palliative care programs in all clinical settings across the country.

CAPC’s constituency represents an array of professionals, disciplines and institutions. Thousands of healthcare providers regularly use its publications, web-based resources, training seminars and audio conferences. Constituents include clinicians from teaching hospitals, community, faith-based, specialty, or VA hospitals, hospices, managed care organizations, nursing homes and home health agencies. The diverse audiences that CAPC serves include:

  • Physicians
  • Nurses
  • Administrators
  • Social workers
  • Educators
  • Policymakers
  • Healthcare researchers
  • Payers
  • Students
  • Patients and their families

CAPC is a national leader in the palliative care movement, advocating for issues that inform public policy such as enhancing the palliative care workforce, investing in the field’s science base and increasing the availability of services in the U.S. healthcare system.

Its overarching mission is to improve care for all seriously ill patients and their families by increasing access to quality palliative care services.

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