Supportive care, sometimes referred to as palliative care, is specialized, whole-person care in which the main goal is relief of symptoms and suffering. Palliative care services can be provided at the same time as care that is focused on cure.
Supportive care often is administered in parallel with active treatment by a team specifically trained to provide the services described above. There now is a medical specialty in Hospice and Palliative Medicine with an increasing number of board-certified physicians available to offer these services. In addition to physicians, the supportive care team may consist of nurses, social workers, chaplains, massage therapists, pharmacists, nutritionists and others.
It is important to understand the difference between supportive, or palliative care, and hospice care. Supportive, or palliative, care may begin at any time during the patient’s illness and is provided in addition to life-prolonging care. The patient does not have to choose between life-prolonging care and palliative care. Hospice care is a specific type of palliative care for patients at the end of their life, usually meaning a life expectancy of six months or less.
The following references are offered to allow you to learn more about supportive, or palliative, care.