Palliative care is a medical and nursing specialty that improves quality of life for patients and families facing serious medical illness. Our team includes palliative care doctors and advanced practice nurses. When needed, it may also include a chaplain and psychologist or other specialists. The goal of our team is to decrease the physical and emotional symptoms of illness. The palliative care team also provides an extra layer of support and assistance with complicated decision-making, goal-setting and advance care planning.
Examples of serious illness where palliative support can impact quality of life include:
- Advanced cancer
- Life-limiting neurologic conditions:
- Alzheimer’s disease
- ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis)
- Brain hemorrhage or stroke
- End-stage Parkinson’s disease
- Advanced heart, lung, liver, kidney or vascular disease
- AIDS (acquired immune deficiency syndrome)
- Traumatic brain injury
- Other serious or life-limiting illnesses
Inpatient palliative care consultations are provided at all three of our hospitals — Froedtert Hospital, Community Memorial Hospital and St. Joseph's Hospital. Outpatient palliative care is available at the Clinical Cancer Center on the Froedtert Hospital campus and can be accessed by patients from anywhere within the Froedtert & MCW health network as needed.
A physician or other provider may refer patients for palliative care, or patients and their families may ask for a palliative care consultation. Learn what to expect from a consultation.
When to Seek Palliative Care
Palliative care is appropriate not just for people at end-of-life, but whenever there is a serious or life-limiting illness. It is not the same as hospice care.
Palliative care can be helpful when:
- There is a distressing physical symptom, such as pain, shortness of breath, nausea, difficulty sleeping or loss of appetite.
- There is a difficult decision to be made concerning treatment choices or next steps in care.
- Assistance is needed by patients and/or families in coordinating end-of-life care or hospice services.
Patient and Family Care
Inpatient consultation and outpatient services are offered to provide assistance in the following areas:
- Help to better understand the illness and anticipated disease course
- Pain and symptom control
- Medical decision-making
- Coordination of care
- Emotional support and coping
- Spiritual support
- Advance care planning
- Connections with hospices and home health agencies
Several reliable online resources can provide additional information for patients and their families. To learn more about palliative care, visit:
Planning ahead with an advance directive can go a long way toward making sure your desires are met should you experience a serious illness. If you are not able to express your wishes for your medical care, an advance directive will relieve your family of the stress and uncertainty of making critical decisions at a very difficult time. Learn more about this important planning step.