What is Palliative Care & Why it May Be Right for You
Grace Weatherby
/ Categories: WELLNESS, 2023

What is Palliative Care & Why it May Be Right for You

When someone receives a diagnosis of a terminal illness, it’s natural to focus on the end of life. But for many people, that ‘end’ may be months or even years away. In that time, there may be ongoing medical treatments or therapies to coordinate, evolving symptoms to manage, and the emotional weight of living with a life-threatening illness to endure. It’s a lot to handle on your own or even with the support of family and friends. And it’s precisely why there’s palliative care. 

While the majority of Americans are familiar with Hospice as an end-of-life care option, only about 10% know about palliative care.

Simply put, palliative care is specialized medical care for people living with a serious illness, such as cancer or heart failure. Often called supportive care, palliative care is focused on providing relief from the symptoms and stress of the illness with the primary goal being to improve quality of life for the patient and their family.

People receiving palliative care may receive medical care for their symptoms along with treatment intended to cure their illness. In addition to addressing medical needs, palliative care focuses on the emotional, spiritual, and social needs of the patient and their family. This all-encompassing care is typically provided by a team of specially trained doctors, nurses and other specialists who work to connect patients with the resources they need and minimize the disruptions their illness or treatments may cause in daily life.   

Palliative care team members frequently meet with patients and family members in a variety of settings including their home, in the hospital or specialist’s office, as well as at rehabilitation centers or nursing homes. Together, they work to help all involved make informed choices regarding treatment and explore ways how best to manage the changes to daily living that may arise from those choices.

The benefits of palliative care have been well-researched and documented. Beyond empowering individuals to control their care and quality of life, palliative care is associated with:

  • Longer life expectancy
  • Less anxiety and depression
  • Improved patient and caregiver satisfaction

If you or a loved one is facing a serious illness, let the primary medical provider know that you’re interested in exploring palliative care.


Allen Hutcheson, MD, is a family medicine physician and palliative care specialist at Southwestern Vermont Medical Center. 


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