Palliative Care: Heart Failure

Palliative care is focused solely on quality of life for those with serious illnesses. It can help to ease both symptoms and stress and guide care. This type of care is done in addition to standard care for your illness. Palliative can be helpful at any stage of your illness.

Symptom Relief

Your team will be made of doctors and nurses that focus in palliative care. They specialize in ways to ease symptoms. Symptoms may be physical, mental health concerns, or overall wellness such as:

  • Breathing problems, breathlessness
  • Loss of appetite, nausea, and weight loss
  • Depression or anxiety
  • Pain
  • Fatigue

This type of care will help to improve comfort and prioritize your treatments.

Decision Making

Your palliative team will also help you plan your care. They will review your current treatments and talk to you about what your goals are. Be open and honest about what you need and want.

Palliative care may focus on steps to extend life or comfort measures only. Your team will talk to you about any recommended treatments. They will help you understand if the treatment is in line with your goals. Decisions may include:

  • Devices to help the heart pump or improve circulation
  • Surgery to repair or improve blood flow to the heart
  • Long-term delivery of medicine through IV
  • Heart transplant
  • Turn off or removal of support devices

The palliative team will also make sure the rest of your medical team know your goals. This will include documents like advanced directives.

Support and Communication

Your family will play a large role in support and care. It can be difficult to talk to loved ones about end-of-life care and decisions. Your palliative care team can help to smooth this out. They can also help you discuss decisions like health care proxy. It is important that your proxy is aware of your goals.

The palliative care team can also provide support for caregivers. They can identify challenges and help find resources for them.

Talk to your medical team about palliative care if you have a serious illness. It can be helpful to talk to a palliative team early in the process. They can let you know what services are available. Having a plan and team in place early may ease stress later on.


Get Palliative Care

American Heart Association


Health Canada

Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada


End-stage Heart Failure. Dynamed. Available at: Last updated: March 5, 2018. Accessed: May 21, 2019.

Palliative care. CardioSmart American College of Cardiology website. Available at: Last updated: March 2018. Accessed: May 21, 2019.

Rehabilitative therapies in the palliative care setting. Dynamed. Available at: Last updated: June 20, 2018. Accessed: May 21, 2019.

What is Palliative Car? Get Palliative Care website. Available at: Accessed: May 21, 2019.

Last reviewed May 2019 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Peter Oettgen, MD  Last Updated: 10/15/2019