Palliative Care: A Vital Component of COVID-19 Care

During the pandemic, palliative care has proven to be an essential part of our health care system’s response. Palliative care providers have enabled sick and frail people to shelter safely at home and have stepped in to support COVID-19–positive patients and their clinicians in ICUs.
Too often, patients and providers equate palliative care with hospice, considering it only when someone has a terminal illness and there’s no hope for curative treatment. But palliative services can be used in a variety of ways, including to help patients understand their conditions, sort through treatment options, and find relief from pain and other distressing symptoms. While hospital programs are the most common, community-based palliative care programs — that is, those outside of hospital settings — offer support to patients coping with serious and often progressive medical conditions and serve as a complement to primary and specialty care.
During the pandemic the role of palliative care has increases. The experiences and lessons learned of this crisis should be considered by policymakers and practitioners “what it would take to sustain and spread palliative care programs to benefit more people”.