What’s Palliative Care for Parkinson’s? [And Why It Matters]

Apr 28, 2023

Palliative care, also known as supportive care, is a comprehensive approach to care that aims to improve quality of life for those with serious illnesses, including Parkinson’s disease. 

Contrary to what many think, palliative care is not specific to hospice or end-of-life care. It can be implemented at any stage of diagnosis, even the beginning!

Here we’ll explain what palliative care looks like for those with Parkinson’s disease and how it improves quality of life. For more helpful information on palliative care, check out our recent Let’s Talk Parkinson’s event on palliative care with Adriana Gonzalez.

What Is Palliative Care?

Palliative care is a multidisciplinary approach to the treatment of Parkinson’s disease. Using this program, persons living with PD work collaboratively with all of their specialists to create a more comprehensive and tailored health care plan. 

The plan encompasses all aspects of the disease: from pain management to goal setting to treatment of psychological challenges. The goal is to treat the whole person, not just the disease.

When you enter palliative care, you are assigned a team that spans your entire care network, including physicians, social workers, physical therapists, occupational therapists, and speech therapists. Together, your team operates to match your specific needs and goals to your treatment. 

Palliative care may be implemented at any stage of diagnosis and works in conjunction with a treatment plan. It can occur in a hospital, at home, at an outpatient clinic, and even via telemedicine.

Why Is Palliative Care Important?

Group of older people demonstrating why Palliative care is so important by living happier lives

Palliative care can improve the lives of those with PD. It provides an extra layer of support by incorporating a specialized medical plan to relieve symptoms, pain, and stress associated with Parkinson’s disease. 

Your palliative care team will administer a myriad of treatments depending on your specific diagnosis. These typically include or address:

  • Emotional and spiritual support
  • Management of nonmotor symptoms such as fatigue, constipation, anxiety & depression, and sleep disorders
  • Tailored nutrition plans
  • Education on your diagnosis
  • Advance care planning

With palliative care, your team is there to aid you in all your decision-making, no matter how big or small. This level of attention ensures effective communication between you, your family members, your care partner(s), and your other doctors.

What’s the Difference Between Palliative Care and Hospice Care?

Two similar, but different rooms demonstrating the difference between Palliative Care and Hospice Care

Palliative care is often confused with hospice care, but the two are very different. Palliative care includes ongoing care to help those with PD plan for the future, treat non-movement symptoms, and provide extra support. 

Conversely, hospice care is specific to end-of-life treatment, primarily as it relates to pain management. Hospice care may be included as part of your palliative care plan.

How To Receive Palliative Care

A Happy woman living with Parkinson's disease receiving Palliative Care from a healthcare professional

Check with your existing care team if they provide a palliative care program in-office. If this is not an option, a social worker can help you determine the best alternatives. Most insurance plans cover the majority, if not all, of the treatments.

Having palliative care can hugely benefit your overall well-being and is a powerful way to manage your Parkinson’s diagnosis on your own terms. With your palliative care team, you ensure you maximize your quality of life to the greatest extent possible.


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