Supportive (Palliative) Care for People with Cancer

What is supportive care?

Supportive, or palliative, care is aimed at comfort versus cure. The decision to accept such care versus aggressive treatment is often difficult for family members. It means accepting a poor prognosis, but it also means providing a very special kind of care to a loved one. It means a new goal of providing a peaceful, pain-free death in the presence of loved ones.

Palliative care can be provided in the hospital, at home, or in a setting specializing in such care. The duration may be long-term over several years, or short-term, lasting days or weeks. Palliative care may include chemotherapy or radiation for pain control. It is important to discuss that the goal of such therapy is not for treatment or cure, but to relieve pain and discomfort.

What are the patient's rights?

Patient's rights are a list of rights to ensure that the company, individual, or institution that is providing his/her care will honor the quality of care, respect, and decision-making processes. These rights will be given to the patient and family before care begins. It is similar to a contract that provides protection to the patient and family, and informs them of services and limitations of the caregiver(s).

What are palliative care services?

Either in the home, hospital, or a specialized setting, the services most palliative care providers can offer are extensive. The following are some of the services offered:

  • Psychosocial support and intervention to help the patient and family members

  • Equipment for delivery of medications, nutrition, oxygen, and suction

  • Equipment including special beds, toilets, chairs, wheelchairs, and bath requirements

  • Skilled nursing care, physicians, pharmacists, and other specialists

  • Medication and nutrition support

  • Spiritual, religious, and cultural needs/requests

  • Special services for siblings or children (i.e., support groups)

  • Respite care allowing the family to rest

  • Bereavement care

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