Palliative care can address the emotional impact of serious illness on patients and their families.

In the depressed terminally ill patient, palliative care teams can help make the distinction between preparatory grief and clinical depression thus enabling earlier treatment of depression. The aggressive symptom management, psychological, and spiritual support from palliative care clinicians can improve the depressed patient’s mood. According to the Mayo Clinic authors, “It is this combination of meticulous attention to both psychosocial distress and physical symptoms that is at the heart of palliative care.”1

Palliative care teams assist in complex communication interactions.

All health care practitioners strive to use empathetic communication skills. This can be demonstrated to the patient and family in many ways, both verbally and nonverbally. Patients and their families respond well to these expressions of caring and support. Palliative care practitioners can collaborate with the clinician and help reinforce this philosophy.

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Clinicians should address the barriers to palliative care involvement. Patients’ hopes and values equate to more than a cure.

Many people are not familiar with the role of palliative care, thinking that a patient is not ready for palliative care. Even many physicians continue to equate palliative care with hospice care. The palliative care team can promote understanding, which in turn helps patients and families make difficult decisions about the degree of care desired.

Palliative care enhances health care value.

The involvement of palliative care is associated with significant reductions in the costs of pharmacy, laboratory, and ICU services. The palliative care team can improve a patient’s quality of life and mood, as well as enhance the satisfaction of both patient and family. As the number of Americans living with serious and life-threatening illnesses continues to increase, palliative care will play an increasingly significant role in providing higher quality health care at a lower cost.

Bette Weinstein Kaplan is a medical writer based in Tenafly, New Jersey. 


1. Strand JJ, Kamdar MM, Carey EC. Top 10 things palliative care clinicians wished everyone knew about palliative care. Mayo Clin Proc. 2013;88(8):859-865.

2. Smith TJ, Temin S, Alesi ER, et al. American Society of Clinical Oncology provisional clinical opinion: the integration of palliative care into standard oncology care. J Clin Oncol. 2012;30(8):880-887.