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Palliative care is defined as specialized medical care designed for patients with serious illness. Regardless of the diagnosis, patients are provided relief from the pain, the symptoms and stresses caused by their illness. The focus is on improving quality of life for the patient and their family. Unlike hospice, palliative care is appropriate for patients in all stages of the disease process, including curative treatment. Similar to hospice, the approach to palliative care involves a multidisciplinary team including pharmacists, nurses, social workers, spiritual counselors, psychologists and other health professional. Their focus is to relieve the patient's suffering in all areas of their life: the physical, spiritual, emotional and social concerns that come with their particular illness.
Palliative care is now more widely used with patients with chronic conditions or progressive diseases such as renal disease, chronic heart failure and pulmonary disorders such as COPD, in addition to those with cancer. The typical patient may be concerned with relief from pain and symptom management, but also fear of what the future may bring, loss of independence and feeling like a burden to their family.
Palliative treatments are offered through many types of services to the patient: relief from suffering, treatment of pain and other symptoms, psychological and spiritual care, a support system to help the individual live as actively as possible and a support system to help the patient's family provide care and be offered respite care.