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Palliative care

Palliative care focuses on improving your quality of life and relieving symptoms when you are critically ill. This offers you an extra level of comfort whether you are battling a serious medical condition or terminally ill.

Palliative care services in Virginia

We help relieve you from the stress and discomfort of serious illness.

Severe illness or injury can be taxing on both the body and mind. The doctors, nurses and staff at HCA Virginia Health System's hospitals are dedicated to providing relief from disease, injury and discomfort. They offer you compassionate support and care.

Conditions addressed by palliative care

Palliative care is a specialty that can be applied to a spectrum of conditions. It is most often used to help people who are struggling with severe illness or those who have been in care for an extended time. Some illnesses that are addressed by our palliative care doctors include:

  • Heart disease
  • End-stage liver disease
  • Kidney failure
  • Lung disease
  • Multiple sclerosis (MS)
  • Parkinson’s disease

Understanding palliative medicine

Our priority is making sure that you are as comfortable as possible. Our doctors and specialists are here to help you feel safe, calm and reassured throughout your time with us.

Questions about palliative care

Whether someone close to you has recently received a significant diagnosis or you are simply preparing for the future, we know you may have questions about palliative care. We provide some answers here to help you understand this special type of medical care.

What is the difference between palliative care and hospice care?

Though there is some intersection between palliative and hospice care, palliative care is its own distinct specialty. Hospice care is exclusively for those nearing the end of their lifespan who require specialized support, whereas palliative care is for anyone who is seriously ill and needs relief from pain, worry or discomfort.

When should someone be offered palliative care?

You and your family should not have to struggle with challenging symptoms alone. Palliative care should begin as soon as you have received a diagnosis. This valuable form of care plays a significant role in your treatment plan, and can address a range of symptoms, including:

  • Anxiety or nervousness
  • Constipation
  • Depression
  • Diarrhea
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Fatigue and malaise
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Pain and serious discomfort
  • Trouble sleeping and restlessness

What is included in palliative care?

We base your palliative care plan entirely on you or your family member's individual needs and wants. It can include a wide range of care, not all of it medical in nature. Palliative care can be anything that helps you feel better, including:

  • Assistance with new mobility equipment
  • Help with emotional distress
  • Medication for symptom management
  • Spiritual counseling
  • Pain management
  • Physical therapy

Whatever you need, our team is there to help you and your family feel better — physically, emotionally and spiritually.

Is palliative care appropriate for me?

There is rarely a time when palliative care isn't appropriate, as it is used to treat anyone experiencing any kind of discomfort. Palliative care may be particularly helpful if you or a loved one:

  • Has a prolonged stay in the hospital without signs of progress
  • Has physical or emotional pain that is not under control
  • Needs help understanding the disease process and coordinating care
  • Needs holistic care (looking at the entire person and addressing all considerations of treatment and care)
  • Needs to establish goals of care and consider further steps for treatment
  • Needs to establish a process for making decisions on life-prolonging treatment, such as a do not resuscitate (DNR) or allow natural death order
  • Wants help with advance care planning or obtaining a living will

Who provides palliative care?

Our team of palliative care specialists is made up of more than just highly trained doctors and advanced practice nurses. We work closely with social workers, pharmacists, nutritionists, counselors and members of the clergy to provide you and your family with emotional support, valuable information and guidance.

How do I prepare for my palliative care consultation?

Palliative medicine is about more than just the treatment of symptoms. It's also there to help you prepare for and understand the care you or your family will receive.

To make sure you are able to create a plan with your provider that works best for you, we recommend bringing the following to your first consultation:

  • A friend or family member who will help you take notes and understand what you will need as care proceeds
  • A list of supplements and medications you use
  • A list of symptoms you are experiencing
  • Any advance directives and living wills to file along with your paperwork

We are here to answer any questions you may have about your treatment options. Throughout your care, we will help you make decisions in line with your personal goals and values while providing relief from your symptoms.

Will my insurance cover palliative care?

Most insurance plans, including Medicare and Medicaid, cover palliative care. If costs concern you, a social worker or financial consultant from HCA Virginia Health System can help you explore options.

What happens after I leave the hospital and need palliative care?

The next steps after you leave the hospital depend on many factors. Regardless of your destination, our palliative care team will be there to help you make an easy and successful transition.