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Ask A Doctor... What is Palliative Care?

January 3, 2017 | By Lisa Schwenk
Published in: Palliative Care, Question Answer

A nurse holding a patients hand to comfort her

Patrick Baroco, MD
Patrick Baroco, MD

Answer provided by Patrick Baroco, MD, Medical Director of Augusta Health Palliative Care. Dr. Baroco attended medical school at the University of South Alabama and completed his residency at Eastern Virginia Medical School. He was recently was awarded the 2016 Best Bedside Manner Award in Palliative Care by Our Health Magazine.

For information about the Palliative Care program, or to determine if you or a love one may benefit from Palliative Care, please call Augusta Health Palliative Care at (540) 245-7262.

Palliative Care is specialized care for people with serious illnesses such as Cancer, Congestive Heart Failure (CHF), Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), kidney disease, Alzheimer's Disease, Parkinson's Disease and many others. Regardless of the diagnosis, the Palliative Care staff focuses on improving life for both the patient and family—relieving both symptoms and burdens of living with a serious illness.

The Palliative Care Team includes both physicians and nurses who can help with coordinating care across various specialties, provide home-based care when patients are not able to get to the doctor's office, and help with planning and 24/7 coverage for managing crises. Patients routinely receive periodic in-home services of our nurses or physicians. The team also works with social workers, pharmacists, dietitians and the patient's other doctors to provide the best care possible.

Some qualities of Palliative Care are:

  • Palliative Care provides symptom management, using various methods of pain and symptom control to help patients live as comfortably as possible;
  • Palliative Care treats the whole person, with a robust team who can help address the emotional, psychological and spiritual needs of the patient and family, not just the medical needs;
  • Palliative Care works with the whole family, not just the patient, making sure to involve families in the decision-making process when appropriate;
  • Palliative Care offers support 24 hours a day, seven day a week, just a phone call away.

One question that's often asked is, "So what's the difference between Palliative Care and Hospice Care? They sound very similar."

The answer is that while both Palliative Care and Hospice Care provide comfort and treat the whole patient and family, Palliative Care can begin at the moment of diagnosis of a serious illness, and can be provided while the patient is receiving treatment to cure and treat the disease. Hospice Care can begin only after treatment to cure the illness has stopped, and the patient is no longer going to survive the illness. Generally, Hospice Care is offered only when the patient is expected to live six months or less.