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What is Palliative Care?

Posted on Nov 15, 2021

Palliative care is specialized medical care for people with serious illness. It focuses on relieving the symptoms and stress of a serious illness. It supports quality of life as determined by the patient and family. It is appropriate for anyone, no matter what their age or type of serious medical illness. Some people benefit from palliative care for their whole life, or only when they are undergoing treatment. There may be a time when palliative care is no longer beneficial if the patient has been cured from their underlying illness with no long-lasting medical problems. Palliative care can be provided in hospitals, clinics and community settings.

Laura Drach, D.O., specializes in hospice and palliative care medicine at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital. She was one of the founding members of and serves as the division chief for the pediatric palliative care program at the hospital. On this week’s On Call for All Kids, she explains how palliative care works and who benefits from it.

Who is on a palliative care team?

A palliative care team is made up of several specialized medical professionals including, but not limited to physicians, nurse practitioners, nurses, social workers, chaplains, psychologists and Child Life specialists.

How do I know if palliative care is right for my child and family?

Palliative care might be right for someone if they are suffering from pain, stress or other symptoms due to serious illness. Some of the serious illnesses you may think of in a pediatric population include cancer, infants born early, heart conditions, kidney disease, seizures, or other conditions that require ongoing medical care. Often, these patients require ongoing visits to the hospital or specialist physicians.

Do I have to give up my primary doctor or team?

No. Palliative care works in conjunction with other teams so that patients can have a multidisciplinary approach.

Can my child have curative care along with palliative care?

YES! Palliative care works with the primary care team. Palliative care teams focus on the goals you have for your child so they can achieve their best quality of life.

Is palliative care the same as hospice?

No. Palliative care is medical treatment that allows you to live your best life. Hospice is introduced when curative care is no longer helping the patient.

On Call for All Kids is a weekly series featuring Johns Hopkins All Children's Hospital experts. Visit each Monday for the latest report.

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