Palliative Care FAQ

Palliative care can make a big difference in the comfort and well-being of seriously ill patients and their families. 



Are palliative care and hospice care the same thing?

Although you may hear these terms used interchangeably, palliative care and hospice care are different. Palliative care is given at every step of the treatment process and at all stages of illness. Hospice is a specific type of end-of-life care provided to people nearing the last stages of a terminal illness. 

Who can benefit from palliative care?

Palliative care can help anyone living with a serious, chronic or progressive disease. This includes patients with cancer, heart failure, kidney disease, lung disease, stroke and dementia.

Palliative care can:

  • Treat symptoms of the disease – Such as pain or shortness of breath.
  • Ease the side effects of treatment – Including fatigue or nausea.
  • Help you with healthcare decisions – Such as feeding tubes, ventilators and dialysis. Your palliative care team can help you weigh the pros and cons of various treatments.
  • Provide emotional and spiritual support – With guidance from our social workers and spiritual care counselors.
  • Help a patient and their loved ones navigate available community resources and programs – Such as support groups and programs and at-home care.

If you’ve been admitted to the hospital more than three times in the last six months for the same reason, you can probably benefit from a palliative care consultation. Call us at 650-988-7624 to schedule a consultation, or ask the doctor treating you in the hospital for a referral to palliative care.

What does a palliative care team do that's different from my other providers?

Your other providers focus on your general health or treating your illness or condition. Palliative care providers have special training in pain management and symptom control. They focus on preventing suffering, improving your quality of life, and helping you and your loved ones cope with your illness.

If I don't have any uncomfortable symptoms, would palliative care still benefit me?

When you’re diagnosed with a serious illness, it can be frightening for you and your family. It often brings up intense emotions, including stress and anxiety. The palliative care team is trained to help you deal with the emotions and distress caused by an illness.

Do I have to give up my doctor if I use the palliative care service?

No. The palliative care team doesn’t replace your doctor. We’ll work together with your medical team and make recommendations for managing your symptoms.

How can palliative care help me once I leave the hospital?

The palliative care team will make suggestions about what type of care will best suit your needs once you’re discharged from the hospital. Our team provides care for patients while they’re in the hospital, but we can assist you in finding community resources.

If I'm already getting hospice services, do I need palliative care?

Generally, if you’re receiving hospice services and are hospitalized, it usually means you need extra help managing your symptoms. The palliative care team can help with symptom management while you’re in the hospital and can help you transition back to home with recommendations for your hospice team.