Questions and answers about palliative care

What is palliative care?

Palliative care is focused on overall quality of life for people living with serious illnesses. This specialized care can be offered anytime during an illness: during curative treatments, skilled nursing care, home health care or as part of hospice care.

The purpose of palliative care is to help patients live with comfort and dignity. Palliative specialists also help patients better understand the ins and outs of their illness and reduce their pain and symptoms. Palliative care often begins with a consultation to identify the patient’s needs and the role palliative care can play in the overall care plan.

Who provides palliative care?

A specialized team of doctors and nurse practitioners provide palliative care. Some palliative care programs also include an interdisciplinary team to support additional emotional, spiritual and clinical needs.  Since palliative care is quite new and varies, be sure to ask what the palliative care program provides.

When should I consider palliative care?

It's important to know the signs that can indicate it is time for palliative care.  Read more here.

How does palliative care work with a patient’s current treatments?

Palliative care provides an added layer of comfort to curative treatments. While doctors may be providing treatments or other care for the patient, palliative care is centered on helping the patient and family feel better — physically, emotionally and spiritually.

By working with the patient’s attending physician, palliative care providers are able to manage pain and symptoms and coordinate care among all doctors and caregivers.

What are the benefits of palliative care?

Palliative care places a high value on quality of life as a patient lives with a serious illness. Learn more about the benefits of palliative care here.

What is the difference between hospice and palliative care?

Hospice care is high-touch comforting care focused on reducing suffering for the patient and the family during end of life, typically in the last year or six months of life. Our interdisciplinary team of physicians, nurses, social workers, chaplains, nursing aides and trained volunteers provide care and support to patients and families when they need it most. Hospice care is typically only provided once the patient no longer receives curative treatments, as hospice care is a philosophy of care that focuses on comfort instead of a cure.

Palliative care is an additional layer of care focused on reducing pain, symptoms and stress for patients with serious illnesses, especially while they are receiving curative treatments. A large focus of palliative care is also on understanding your goals of care and completing advance directives, so care wishes are known and documented in case the serious illness should advance.

How does a patient get palliative care?

Patients should ask their doctor about receiving a palliative care consultation to see how a palliative care plan could help. A doctor’s referral is often needed to receive palliative care.

Does insurance pay for palliative care?

Most insurance plans, including Medicare and Medicaid, typically cover palliative care. An Optum care team member can help determine a patient’s coverage.

If you think you or a loved one will benefit from palliative care, ask your doctor, contact your local Optum Palliative Care provider or call 877-765-4445.

CHAP accreditation

Hospice care provided by Optum is CHAP accredited, a distinction that recognizes only those providing the highest standard of community-based hospice care. Learn more.

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