Palliative care is a relatively new specialty that has really taken off over the last two decades. In essence, palliative care is specialized medical care for people with serious illnesses. This type of care focuses on providing patients with relief from the symptoms, pain and stress of a serious illness – whatever the diagnosis. The goal of palliative care is to improve quality of life for both the patient and the family.
Palliative care is provided by a team of: doctors, nurses, social workers and other health care specialists working together with a patient’s other physicians to provide an extra layer of support. Palliative care is appropriate at any age and at any stage of a serious illness and in conjunction with curative treatments.
Hospice is a subtype of palliative care. It is a special program for patients who have a limited life expectancy and have decided they no longer want curative treatments. Both programs focus on relief of pain and suffering, but palliative care can be consulted at any stage of illness. Patients who receive palliative care don’t have to give up other medical treatments to qualify.
Laura Archuleta, MD, with St. Alexius Family Medicine Center in Mandan is board certified in hospice and palliative care medicine. St. Alexius is in the process of developing a palliative care program within the medical center.