Understanding Palliative Care

Understanding Palliative Care

February 9, 2024

The Benefits of Palliative Care for Seniors 

Finding care for a senior loved one is overwhelming. You have multiple options to choose from, each with its pros and cons. Despite the difficulty, deciding between approaches to care is critical. For many families, palliative care is the answer. This form of care is a common way to ensure seniors receive the best possible quality of life in their later years. Palliative care comes with numerous benefits, from physical health to emotional well-being. Let the experts at BrightStar Care fill you in about this popular approach to care.

What Is Palliative Care? 

Palliative care is specialized medical care focusing on relieving pain and minimizing the symptoms of an illness. While individuals may request curative treatment, the main objective of palliative care is improving quality of life and addressing emotional needs. Many times, you'll see services split into these 5 stages of palliative care:

  • Planning—Before beginning palliative care, families and healthcare providers will create a plan for the necessary services. The plan will include the expected progression of the illness, care preferences, treatments and symptom management.
  • Emotional Preparation—Entering palliative care is often difficult from an emotional standpoint. Seniors may have access to social workers, psychologists and spiritual support should they need help with the transition.
  • Early-Stage Care—Once care begins, healthcare providers will recommend approaches to maximize independence and quality of life.
  • Late-Stage Care—As the disease progresses, late-stage care begins. This form of care includes end-of-life measures as well.
  • Family Support—The fifth stage of palliative care comes after the individual has passed. Many hospice agencies continue offering bereavement support to grieving families for about a year after the passing.

When Should Someone Be Offered Palliative Care? 

Palliative care can be offered at any stage of illness and is best provided soon after a person is diagnosed. There isn't one set time for when someone should be offered palliative care, as it depends greatly on the individual's unique needs. Ideally, the conversation about palliative care begins at the time of diagnosis, but every circumstance is different. If you have questions about starting this type of care, don't hesitate to reach out to your loved one's healthcare team.

Palliative Care Vs. Hospice Care

Hospice and palliative care are often viewed as the same. However, these specialized types of medical care have important distinctions. While hospice is specific to end-of-life care, palliative care is a more inclusive service. Many seniors even choose to receive palliative care separate from a need for hospice. Here are the key differences between these approaches:

  • Timing: Palliative care can be provided at any stage of illness beginning from the time of diagnosis. Hospice is only offered to people with six months or less to live.
  • Treatment: Patients may seek curative treatment alongside palliative care. However, hospice patients agree to forego any cure and live out the natural progression of the disease.
  • Scope of Care: Hospice and palliative care have similar scopes, both focusing on maximizing quality of life and addressing emotional needs. Unlike hospice, palliative care works in conjunction with curative treatments to best serve patients. 

Know the Types of Palliative Care 

Palliative care is used to address a wide range of needs. Depending on your loved one's condition and circumstances, their provider may suggest the following types of care:

  • Physical: As with any type of medical care, the physical aspects are crucial. Physical palliative care accounts for symptom management, pain control, and other methods of minimizing a disease's adverse effects. It may involve medication adjustments and complementary therapies.
  • Emotional: Emotional and mental support is essential for people facing a daunting diagnosis. Palliative care teams help clients and their families cope with the challenges and emotional distress.
  • Spiritual: Many palliative care providers recognize the importance of addressing clients' spiritual needs. While never required, clients can request guidance and counseling from a religious perspective.

Payment Methods for Palliative Care

Too often, families forego palliative care because they're worried about the cost. In many cases, most of these services are paid for through insurance. Here's what you expect depending on your loved one's coverage:

  • Medicare: Medicare covers palliative care services for eligible individuals with some conditions. It typically takes care of medical expenses related to palliative care, including symptom management medications. Medicare Part A and Part B may be applicable, depending on the specific circumstances, but keep in mind that Medicare will only pay if you use an approved provider.
  • Medicaid: Medicaid provides health coverage to low-income individuals and families. It often covers palliative care and medications, but the extent of coverage varies by state.
  • Private Insurance: If your loved one has a private insurance provider, it may cover specific services associated with palliative care. Be sure to contact the provider to learn more about the provisions of the insurance plan.
  • Life Insurance: In some circumstances, individuals may be able to access life insurance funds to pay for end-of-life care. Reach out to the insurance company for information about the specific policy.

How Families Benefit From Palliative Care 

Choosing palliative care for your loved one offers numerous advantages. The patient certainly benefits from an increased quality of care, but their families also receive benefits. While circumstances vary greatly from person to person, most individuals can look forward to these advantages:

Palliative care plays a key role in enhancing the quality of life for individuals battling severe illnesses. Along with their families, clients receiving care benefit in a variety of ways, from physical assistance to emotional support. Our team is dedicated to offering a supportive environment where clients can focus on living their lives to the fullest with minimal pain. 

Find a BrightStar Care® Location Near You 

Looking for in-home care services or assisted living for your loved one or a reliable medical staffing partner for your organization? Our experienced local care team members are ready to help. Find a location near youcontact us online, or call 866.618.7827 to speak with a local care expert and learn more about how BrightStar Care offers A Higher Standard®.


  1. https://www.lung.org/blog/understanding-palliative-care
  2. https://www.helpguide.org/articles/caregiving/hospice-and-palliative-care.htm 
  3. https://www.nhpco.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/04/PalliativeCare_VS_Hospice.pdf