Palliative care

Palliative care offers symptom management along with emotional/spiritual support for persons with advanced illnesses and their families. It is meant to be a life-enhancing support system for patients (and their loved ones/caregivers) facing serious illnesses whose quality of life could be improved.

In addition, palliative care teams put great importance on communication between you, your family and your doctors to ensure that your needs are fully met. These include setting goals for your care, help with decision making and coordination of care. Palliative care is not dependent on prognosis. It is offered with curative and all other appropriate forms of medical treatment.

For more information, please see the “Frequently Asked Questions” section on this page.

Frequently Asked Questions

Who can receive palliative care?

Any patient with serious illness whose quality of life could be improved, including those with:

  • Advanced cardiac disease (heart failure, severe coronary artery disease)
  • End-stage renal (kidney) disease and dialysis
  • Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)
  • Cancer (metastatic, recurrent, advanced stage)
  • Stroke with decreased function by at least 50 percent
  • Advanced dementia, Alzheimer’s disease or other neurological disorders

Palliative care can also be beneficial to patients who have a serious illness and other serious health condition(s) and are facing/have faced:

  • Problems completing activities of daily living
  • Two or more hospital readmissions for chronic illness within 3 months
  • Difficulty managing physical or emotional symptoms
  • Uncertainty with:
    • Code status (what to do in a life-threatening event)
    • Goals of care
    • Limited social support 

How do I know if palliative care is right for me?

Palliative care may be right for you if you are facing pain, stress and other symptoms due to a serious illness. Serious illnesses include, but are not limited to: cancer, cardiac (heart) disease, respiratory disease, kidney failure, Alzheimer’s disease, AIDS, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and multiple sclerosis (MS). Palliative care is appropriate at any stage of a serious illness and you can get it along with your current treatment.

What does palliative care do?

  • Pain and symptom control: Your palliative care team identifies your sources of pain and discomfort. These may include problems with breathing, fatigue, depression, insomnia (trouble sleeping), bowel or bladder. The team will provide treatments that can offer relief. These might include medicines, along with massage therapy or relaxation techniques.
  • Communication and coordination: Palliative care teams put great importance on communication between you, your family and your doctors to ensure that your needs are fully met. These include setting goals for your care, help with decision making and coordination of care.
  • Emotional support: Palliative care focuses on the entire person, not just the illness. The team members caring for you address social, psychological, emotional or spiritual needs you may have.
  • Family/caregiver support: Caregivers bear a great deal of stress too, so the palliative care team supports them as well. This focused attention helps ease some of the strain and can help with decision making.

What can I expect from palliative care?

You can expect to have more control over your care in a comfortable and supportive atmosphere that reduces anxiety and stress. Your plan of care is reviewed each day by the palliative care team. It is discussed with you to make sure your needs and wishes are being met and that your treatments are in line with your goals.

You can expect:

  • Relief from symptoms such as pain, shortness of breath, fatigue, constipation, nausea, loss of appetite and difficulty sleeping
  • Help to carry on with your daily life
  • Improved ability to go through medical treatments
  • Better understanding of your condition and your choices for medical care

In short, you can expect the best possible quality of life.

Will my insurance cover palliative care?

Most insurance plans, including Medicare and Medicaid, cover all or part of palliative care treatment. If costs concern you, a social worker or financial consultant from the palliative care team can help you with payment options.

Do I have to give up my own doctor?

The palliative care team provides an extra layer of support and works with your primary doctor. Your primary doctor will continue to direct your care and play an active role in your treatment.

Can I have curative treatment together with palliative care?

Absolutely. Your treatment choices are up to you. You can get palliative care at the same time as treatment meant to cure you.

Who else, besides the patient, can benefit?

Everyone involved! Patients as well as family caregivers are the special focus of palliative care. Your doctors and nurses benefit too, because they know they are meeting your needs by providing care and treatment that improves your quality of life.

Where do I get palliative care?

Palliative care is available in many places. These include hospitals, outpatient clinics, long-term care facilities, hospices or home.

Who provides palliative care?

Usually a team of specialists, including palliative care doctors, nurses and social workers provide this type of care. Massage therapists, pharmacists, nutritionists and others might also be part of the team.

Can I get palliative care if I am at home?

After discharge from the hospital, you, your doctor and the palliative care team can discuss outpatient palliative care. Some hospitals also offer outpatient palliative care even if you have not been in the hospital. Check with your doctor.

What is the difference between hospice and palliative care?

Palliative care is for anyone with a serious illness. You can have it at any age and any stage of an illness, and you can have it along with curative treatment. It is not dependent on prognosis. Hospice is an important benefit that provides care for terminally ill patients who may only have a short time to live. People who receive hospice are also no longer receiving curative treatment for their underlying disease.

How do I get palliative care?

Start by talking with your doctor or nurse.

Who can I contact about palliative care at Mount Nittany Health?

You can contact:

Melissa Galloway, CRNP, NP-C


Jacqueline Hahn, RN, BS, CCM

Wellness Library

News Article

Mount Nittany Health welcomes Susan Hostetter Krieger as medical director of palliative care services at Medical Center

Mount Nittany Health is pleased to announce the addition of Susan Hostetter Krieger, MD, as Mount Nittany Medical Center’s medical director of palliative care services.

Read entire article