Palliative care is a multi-disciplinary approach to healthcare, encompassing the physical, emotional, social, and spiritual care of people with serious illnesses. Palliative care is provided by a team of doctors, nurses, and other specialists who work to provide an extra layer of support for the patient and the patient’s family. The goal of palliative care is to provide the best possible quality of life for people facing the pain, symptoms and stresses of serious illness, including those undergoing treatment for curable illnesses and those living with chronic diseases, as well as patients who are nearing the end of life. It is appropriate at any age and at any stage of an illness, and can be provided along with treatments that are meant to cure.
For people living with multiple sclerosis (MS), the journey from diagnosis to end-of-life may range from a nearly normal life expectancy with death from cancer or heart disease to a more progressive disease course with increased disability and severe and debilitating symptomatology. Due to the unpredictability of MS, it is imperative to help patients plan for possible outcomes in ways that enhance quality of life and foster independence and self-actualization for as long as possible. Healthcare professionals are encouraged to explore and discuss palliative care options and strategies throughout the disease course in order to avoid the pitfalls of last-minute or nonexistent plans of care.