Palliative Care

"I feel extremely fortunate that I was referred to the Virginia Mason Palliative Care Program. My first appointment with the palliative care team put to rest the fears and concerns I had about my diagnosis in such a respectful and caring way that I left knowing my future would, as Dr. Beiter says, 'contain joy as its highest priority.'”

Palliative care is specialized medical care for people living with serious illness. It focuses on providing relief from the symptoms and side effects that accompany illness and treatment. The goal of palliative care is to improve quality of life for both the patient and the family.

Because the goal of palliative care is to relieve suffering and support quality of life, it is appropriate for patients of all ages and in all stages of serious illness.

A serious illness may include:

  • Cancer
  • Heart disease
  • Lung disease
  • Kidney disease
  • Alzheimer’s
  • HIV/AIDS
  • Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Parkinson’s
  • Other chronic conditions

It’s important to know that palliative care is provided along with other medical treatment, and receiving palliative care does not mean you stop receiving treatment for your disease. Research shows that patients who receive both types of care often report less severe symptoms, a better quality of life and more satisfaction with treatment.

Who provides palliative care?

Palliative care is provided by a team of highly trained palliative care doctors, nurses, social workers and others who work together with your care team to meet the unique needs brought on by serious illness. The palliative care team works in partnership with treating providers to offer both expert symptom management and dedicated time for communication with families and patients about your goals and treatment options.

What kinds of care can I expect from the palliative care team?

Examples of palliative care services include:

  • Symptom management for conditions such as pain, breathlessness, fatigue, constipation, nausea, loss of appetite and difficulty sleeping.
     
  • Promoting your quality of life and helping you stay on track with medical treatments.
     
  • A better understanding of your condition and your choices for medical care throughout your illness, to help regain a feeling of control.
     
  • Emotional and social support for you and your family, optimizing your mental well-being and connecting you to the appropriate resources.
     
  • Spiritual care services to understand and honor your spiritual needs.

How does palliative care differ from hospice care?

While hospice care is one type of palliative care, they are not the same. Unlike hospice care that is provided to patients expected to live six months or less, palliative care is appropriate at any step of the treatment process. When a patient recovers from their serious illness, they may no longer need to receive the support of their palliative care team.

Do you have questions at palliative care at Virginia Mason?

Call the Palliative Care Clinic at (206) 341-0708.