Palliative care describes care given to a terminally ill patient for whom no treatment will treat the underlying disease. It can go on for hours or even years depending on the condition and the progress of the disease. The primary consideration of the physician is not to make the patient better, but to ensure the patient is kept comfortable, safe, and out of pain. Because painkillers can often speed up the progress of the underlying condition or be harmful to the patient, palliative care is only appropriate for seriously ill patients who are unable to care for themselves.
Palliative care is common for patients with severe progressive paralysis, late stage cancer, AIDS, or Alzheimer's disease. Despite their illness and conditions causing fatigue or loss of muscle control, palliative care patients are often difficult to deal with psychologically as well, either because of their difficulty dealing with their impending death, dementia, or resentment of the people treating them.
Palliative care patients face many risks, including opportunistic infection.