What is the Definition of Palliative Care?


If one of your loved ones is facing terminal illness, you have probably heard the term palliative care. Most people have a general understanding that palliative care has something to do with end-of-life services, but what is the real palliative care definition per the professionals?


The World Health Organization’s Palliative Care Definition

According to the World Health Organization, palliative care is a comprehensive treatment strategy focused on “the prevention and relief of suffering by means of early identification and impeccable assessment and treatment of pain and other problems, physical, psychosocial, and spiritual.”


Expanding this Palliative Care Definition

A key aspect of palliative care that is not always identified in formal definitions is care for the entire family. By addressing the spiritual and social needs of the patient, palliative care extends to all who will be affected by the patient’s passing. This can be done through family or group counseling sessions, religious services and more. These additional services set palliative care apart from other treatment methodologies by making treatment collective and communal.


What Palliative Care is Not

While palliative care is expansive and includes many practices, a few components of traditional medical care are generally excluded from any palliative care definition. For instance, palliative care does not usually involve aggressive attempts to cure the illness through accepted means or experimental drugs. However, some patients may enter palliative care temporarily before trying a new treatment option. Palliative care is also not limited by any particular timeline. In some cases, patients in palliative care lead long, meaningful lives simply by managing their symptoms. Palliative care can be provided either at home or in a dedicated healthcare facility, but many palliative care patients prefer to be at home where they are most comfortable and surrounded by loved ones.


If you have any further questions about what is and is not a part of palliative care, we invite you to contact Wings of Hope today to speak with one of our patient care specialists for further clarification.