Whether caring for somebody recently diagnosed with an advanced illness or standing by the bedside of someone living their last moments, providing patient-centered, quality care is fundamental to being a provider.

Palliative care is patient-centered and family-focused care that provides an adult or child of any age with relief from the symptoms, pain and stress of a serious illness. It addresses complex symptom management including assistance with the emotional, social and spiritual suffering often associated with serious illness. Palliative care may be offered to patients alongside treatments intended to cure or treat the illness. Or, it may replace those treatments and serve as a transition to hospice services.

Two Branches of Palliative Care

Supportive Palliative Care

This team-based care, a recognized specialty in the medical field, is designed to reduce suffering and improve the quality of life for patients and families facing a serious, and sometimes life-limiting, illness. Supportive palliative care includes receiving curative (remission-oriented) or non-curative forms of treatment that include comfort care at the same time.

Referral for Supportive Palliative Care

Supportive palliative care services may be offered from the first day of a patient's serious, chronic or life-limiting diagnosis. With early referral, this care has been associated with improved outcomes.  Even if the chance of survival does not improve, patients should be able to discuss what is important to them, also known as a goals of care conversation. This helps you offer care and services consistent with the patient’s wishes. For more information on how to get the conversation started, visit The Conversation Project, an Institute for Healthcare Improvement website about end-of-life care.

Hospice Care

Hospice, or end-of-life care, addresses the last stage of a serious illness when no further curative or life-prolonging therapy is available or desired by an adult patient or family member.

Referral for Hospice Palliative Care

Hospice should be considered when the patient's life expectancy is six months or less. Studies have shown that timely access to hospice care can increase quality of life for patients and family caregivers (Palliative Care Organization).

To Learn More

For more information on the types of care that can be offered, visit HHSC's Palliative Care website.

National Consus Project Guidelines for offering palliative care are available at the National Coalition for Hospice and Palliative Care website.