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Palliative Care Palliative Care

Palliative Care

​​​​Think about living well, in spite of illness.

Palliative care is about medical treatment that is sensitive to your personal goals and values. It's about maintaining hope and living as full as possible.

What is palliative care?

Palliative care is an approach that focuses on caring for the whole person – meeting the physical, emotional and spiritual needs of people with serious, life-limiting medical conditions. The goal of palliative care is to reduce suffering, preserve dignity and improve quality of life for patients and their families alike.

To ensure that patients have the best possible quality of life, palliative care focuses on:

  • Managing symptoms caused by disease as well as its treatment
  • Supporting patients and families emotionally through illness
  • Coordinating care to allow patients and families to more easily navigate the health care system
  • Creating a plan of care that meets the needs and reflects the values of the patient

Who is it for?

Whether a person has just been diagnosed with an illness, is in active treatment, has completed therapy or is nearing the end of life, palliative care can make a world of difference in meeting the goal to live well.

It is appropriate at any age and for any serious, life-limiting medical condition, such as cancer, heart failure, chronic lung disease, dementia, kidney failure or liver failure.

What can it do for me and my family?

Palliative care will:

  • Manage pain and other symptoms such as nausea, fatigue, breathlessness, depression or anxiety
  • Assist you in making difficult medical decisions
  • Help you communicate with your family about your hopes and fears
  • Promote healthy coping

Is it the same as hospice?

Hospice is an insurance benefit that offers community-based palliative care for patients who are nearing the end of their lives. Hospice insurance benefit is one way to access palliative care. That being said, not all patients who would benefit from palliative care qualify for the hospice insurance benefit. Palliative care is appropriate for patients of any age at any stage of serious life-limiting illness, regardless of life expectancy.

Our Process

SSM Health St. Mary's Hospital – Madison's Palliative Care consultation service includes a physician specialist, a nurse practitioner, and you and your loved ones. Social workers, chaplains, pharmacists, nurses and other health professionals work closely with the palliative care team.

We begin by meeting with you and your family to review the medical condition, assess your needs and develop a plan that respects your values and treatment preferences. We do not make treatment decisions for you, but we can offer recommendations that are based on your situation and goals. Together, we create an individualized approach based on what matters most to you.

Working with your palliative care team, you'll gain:

  • Counseling and coordination of care with other health care providers, including your primary doctor, hospitalists and specialists such as oncologists, surgeons and cardiologists
  • Assistance with Advance Directives that document your care preferences
  • Spiritual care and support for people of all faiths and beliefs
  • Social work and advocacy services that will help with planning for your care in the future, whether it's at home, in a hospital, at an assisted living residence or in a hospice facility

While your regular doctor may ask the palliative care team for input, he or she will continue to be in charge of your care.

For more information

While this overview offers a glimpse into St. Mary's Palliative Care Service, it cannot take the place of open discussion with your health care team.

For help with living a life full of meaning and hope amid illness,
please contact a team member at 608-446-6920.​