What is Palliative Care?

The Pegasus House Palliative Care Program focuses on providing relief from pain and stress while enabling continued family connection in a comfortable and dignified setting. The program is a combination of medicine, nursing, spirituality, social work, psychology and philosophy, delivered with an emphasis on compassion and human connection. People often confuse hospice with palliative care. In order to qualify for hospice, a patient must be determined to be within six months of the end of their life. Palliative care may include people at the end of their life, but not exclusively.

Palliative care can be provided to anyone across any disease spectrum. To qualify for palliative care, a patient should have a chronic illness or an acute illness that causes that patient or his or her family to suffer. This encompasses many different diseases and conditions.

Palliative care is patient-centered care that includes the satellite of family and friends who care about that patient. Disease impacts individual patients, and also their role or roles within their families. The palliative care team provides care and consideration for patients as well as their support system.

The Palliative Care team treats several different kinds of suffering. There is physical suffering, which includes symptoms like pain, shortness of breath, and nausea. There is psychological suffering, which includes fear, anxiety, depression, and simply not understanding what is happening medically. There is spiritual suffering, which can include perception an afterlife, accepting one's fate, or even denial or rejection of their faith. There is also existential suffering, which reflects an individual's sense of self and self-worth with regard to the world, society and the impact his or her life had on others.

It is the job of the Palliative Care team to approach each of these potential areas of suffering. This involves the multidisciplinary professional input that helps bring adjustment, acceptance and closure to individuals as well as their families.

The Palliative Care team has effectively facilitated patients being transferred to many different centers; for example, to Mount Sinai Medical Center for a liver transplant, or Memorial Sloan Kettering for enrollment in a research study for a rare blood disease.