Answers to Your Questions About Palliative Care

Palliative care—which seeks to improve quality of life for people facing serious or terminal illness—often evokes many questions. For example: Is palliative care the same as hospice? (It’s not, although that’s a common misconception.) Below, we address the top myths and questions to help you understand how palliative care could help you or your loved ones.

Hands holding hands

What is palliative care?

Palliative care provides support to relieve pain and suffering, and helps improve quality of life throughout the course of any serious illness, including at the end of life. Palliative care can include a wide variety of treatments to ease suffering, including pain management, nutritional changes, relaxation techniques, and emotional or spiritual support. It can also provide personal care and assistance with daily activities that have become challenging for a patient.

Receiving palliative care doesn’t have to mean ceasing medical treatment—people receiving palliative care can continue to receive treatment and therapies intended to treat or cure their illness.

“Palliative care offers comfort as well as a personal connection, which is so important when people are going through serious illnesses,” says Gwen Harris, Care Manager for Palliative and End of Life Care at Seniors At Home. “The relationship a person has with their palliative care team can help ease them not only physically, but also emotionally.”

Who can benefit from palliative care?

Patients with serious illnesses or at the end of life are the most obvious beneficiaries, but their families and loved ones may also find value in palliative care. Through palliative care, family members can receive emotional support as well as guidance in making health care decisions. Palliative care should be thought of as a service that can enhance the quality of life of an entire household.

Does insurance cover palliative care?

Benefits vary, but palliative care is often covered by Medicare, Medicaid, and private insurance carriers.

When should palliative care begin?

There’s no need to wait for an illness to reach a particular stage before starting palliative care. In fact, patients are often better off seeking palliative care early in their illness—sometimes even at the time of diagnosis—to ensure they receive the medical, emotional, and practical support they need.

Who provides palliative care?

A palliative care team can include a variety of professionals, such as doctors and nurses, religious leaders, nutritionists, and therapists. Palliative care can also be provided by volunteers who are trained to offer bedside support. Seniors At Home’s trained palliative care volunteers, for example, provide holistic care and companionship to address physical, emotional, and spiritual suffering.

Seniors At Home’s community of trained volunteers are a key part of our palliative care service, and play a vital role in the lives of our clients and their families.

“Palliative care volunteers provide a very special type of solace to our clients,” says Harris. “Being at the bedside let them engage on a personal level, so they can offer the specific type of support each client needs.”

Our volunteers provide respite for family members, assist with simple errands and tasks, or simply provide comfort and companionship. No previous medical training is required. We encourage people who are interested in this important type of volunteer service to apply for the training. Click here to learn more.


Seniors At Home is here to help. If you or someone you care about needs assistance, please reach out to us at 415-529-5981 or contact us online. Seeking support and understanding helps us—and our loved ones—enjoy a higher quality of life and make the most of our time together.