Palliative Care

patient-with-teddy-bearPalliative care is medical care that focuses on alleviating the discomforts of a disease or injury.

What is Palliative Care?

Palliative care attempts to relieve the physical and psychological discomforts associated with an illness and also sometimes attempts to ease the discomfort associated with treatment itself. For example, some people with cancer take medicine to treat the nausea that chemotherapy can cause. Palliative care does not treat the underlying health condition. It may occur in isolation when a condition is untreatable, or in conjunction with other forms of treatment. Examples of palliative care include pain medication, counseling, aromatherapy, or altering a person’s bedroom or hospital room to make it more comfortable.

How Palliative Care and Hospice Care Differ

Palliative care is sometimes confused with hospice care, because both focus on alleviating symptoms rather than curing disease. However, hospice care is reserved for people at the end of life, while palliative care can occur at any life stage. A person with a tooth infection, for example, might receive palliative care in the form of pain medication while he/she waits for his/her dentist to schedule a root canal.

Palliative Care and Mental Health

Palliative care plays an important role in psychological well-being, and people who have effective pain management are less likely to become depressed and overwhelmed. Sometimes therapy plays a role in palliative care. A person with a chronic pain condition or a terminal illness, for example, might enlist the help of a therapist in coping with her condition, talking to others about her condition, or making lifestyle changes—such as weight loss or quitting smoking—that might improve the condition.

Some mental health treatments could be considered palliative care. For example, a person with a phobia might take an anti-anxiety medication prior to encountering the thing he or she fears. The medication does not solve the underlying phobia, but it could serve as palliative care until the phobia is dealt with through therapy.


  1. What is palliative care? (n.d.). Center to Advance Palliative Care. Retrieved from

Last Updated: 08-17-2015

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