Supportive Palliative Care

Supportive palliative care is patient and family-centered health care that optimizes quality of life for seriously ill patients (high-risk of mortality or life-limiting illness) and their families by: 

  • Anticipating, preventing and treating a patient’s “total pain” or total suffering. 
  • Addressing the physical, intellectual, emotional, cultural, social and spiritual needs of the patient.
  • Facilitating patient autonomy. 
  • Ensuring the patient receives relevant information to support the informed consent decision making process. 

SPC is provided without regard to patient age or terminal prognosis and does not require the patient to decline attempts at cure or other disease-modifying therapy. 

How Is SPC Different Than Hospice Care?

SPC treatments focus on pain and symptom comfort levels. At the same time, multiple clinicians provide other disease interventions – such as attempts at cure or remission. This is a distinct difference from hospice care, which focuses on end-of-life comfort care.

Supportive Palliative Care Vs. Hospice Care (PDF).

How Can I Get SPC?

If you have a serious illness and experience any of the following symptoms, SPC might be right for you:

  • Uncontrolled pain and symptom management
  • Depression, anxiety or fear
  • Family or community distress
  • Spiritual needs

If you think this type of care might benefit you or someone in your family, talk with your health care provider about getting an SPC consultation. To find a palliative care provider in your area, visit the palliative care provider directory webpage.

Who Is Part of My Palliative Care Team?

It takes a team approach to ensure you get the best care. Experts suggest you might want the following people on your SPC team:

  • Your loved ones
  • Social worker
  • Nurse
  • Pharmacist
  • Chaplain
  • Palliative care doctor
  • Advanced practice providers (nurse practitioner or physician’s assistant)
  • Other health care providers who treat you

What Does an SPC Team Do?

Your SPC team will:

  • Prescribe treatments to control pain
  • Assist with difficult decisions
  • Coordinate care with other doctors and healthcare clinicians
  • Provide emotional and spiritual support

SPC For Children

Supportive palliative care might not be the first thing that comes to mind if your child is diagnosed with a serious illness. Palliative care for children not only is a key part of caring for your child, but also can be an important source of support for the whole family.

What are the benefits of palliative care for my child?

According to the National Institutes of Health, palliative care can ease the symptoms, discomfort and stress of serious illness for your child and family. It can help with your child’s illness and give support to your family by:

  • Easing your child’s pain and other symptoms of illness.
  • Providing emotional and social support that respects your family’s cultural values.
  • Helping your child’s health care providers work together and communicate with one another to support your goals.
  • Starting open discussions with you, your child, and your health care team about options for care.

You can learn more about palliative care for children from the NIH booklet, Palliative Care for Children (PDF). It includes how this kind of care can help your child live a more comfortable life, how to talk to your doctor and who pays for care.

Where can I get more information?

To learn more about programs and services that promote physical and psychosocial care for children with life-limiting illnesses, visit the Project Joy & Hope website.

The Texas Pediatric Palliative Care Consortium offers a parent-to-parent support line at 713-944-6569 or

How Do I Pay For SPC?

Palliative care might be paid for by your health insurance or managed care organization, or by state or federal programs such as Medicare or Medicaid. Services also might be available for veterans from the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Caregiver Resources

Hospice also provides services to caregivers and the family. As a caregiver for a parent, spouse or child, you might feel overwhelmed. Use these resources and suggestions to help you find emotional and physical task support to ease your stress as a caregiver.