Serious Illness Care (palliative care) may be provided at any point during a person’s illness, even right from the time of diagnosis. Serious Illness Care is appropriate at any age, at any stage of disease, and along with other types of treatment a patient may be receiving.

What is Serious Illness Care?

Sometimes referred to as “palliative care” or “comfort care,” Serious Illness Care provides pain and symptom management for patients who have serious illnesses, helps them set goals and understand decisions, provides family and caregiver support, assists in care coordination, and offers practical and social supports. Care is provided wherever “home” is – a private residence, assisted living or nursing facility.

Who provides Serious Illness Care?

Serious Illness Care is provided by a team of specialists who are trained in assisting patients and their families through what can be the most difficult time in their lives.  Members of the team typically include physicians, nurse practitioners and social workers.

Is serious illness care the same as Hospice?

No. Serious illness care is different from hospice in two main ways:

  • Patients can continue to receive curative kinds of treatment while receiving serious illness care
  • In order to receive palliative care, patients do not need a physician to certify that they have a terminal diagnosis or a life-expectancy of six-months or less
Who is appropriate for serious illness care?

Serious Illness care is for anyone with a serious or life-threatening illness. Serious illnesses may include cancer, dementia, heart and lung disease like CHF and COPD, End Stage Renal Disease, liver disease, ALS, HIV/AIDS and others. Palliative care can be provided to patients of any age, at any stage of their illness.

Think of a Serious Illness care consultation as a visit with a specialist in managing pain and symptoms relating to a serious illness. This visit may improve your quality of life

When should serious illness care begin?

Serious illness care can begin whenever you and your doctor believe it can help. Ideally, serious illness care should be available from the time of diagnosis and last throughout the course of the illness. Recent research indicates that early involvement of serious illness care may actually help people who are dealing with serious medical issues live longer.

For patients who will need hospice care at a later time, serious illness care can provide a smooth transition.

What are some of the services that serious illness care provides?

Serious Illness care services include:

  • Exceptional pain and symptom management by specially trained nurse practitioners and doctors
  • Care coordination with your current physicians and anyone else who is part of your healthcare team to provide an “extra” layer of support
  • Assistance with the development of your individual and unique plan of care for the management of distressing symptoms
  • Assistance with conversations about your wishes and goals