Palliative care: Emotional, physical and spiritual support for you and your family

You and your family may need support while coping with a serious illness. At UW Health, our palliative care team focuses on relieving the symptoms and stress so you can experience the greatest possible quality of life.


Providing relief from the symptoms and stress of serious illness

When you are dealing with a serious or life-threatening condition, the palliative care team at UW Health provides care for you and your family. Our job is to work with you and your other doctors and nurses to ensure you receive the best care possible. 

Our team addresses your emotional, physical and spiritual needs. We work with you at any point of a serious illness, whether you’ve just been diagnosed, are in active treatment, have completed therapy or are nearing the end of life.

Palliative care treats pain and other symptoms, supports you and your family and helps your family support you and each other. We work with adults and children. Our team stays involved in your care for as long as you need us.

Accessing care

Patients are referred to Palliative Care by their attending physicians. The Palliative Care Unit accepts patients from clinic, the emergency room or on transfer from another unit.

Conditions and treatments

Complete care at home or in the hospital

At UW Health, we provide palliative care to patients with a wide range of serious, progressive conditions.

For example, anyone with a serious illness or injury to a single organ like lung, heart, kidney or liver diseases; or diseases that affect the body more generally like dementia or cancer.

Your care team treats the emotional, physical and spiritual needs of you and your family. We do this by focusing on six major areas:

  • Helping you plan for the future 

  • Helping you build coping skills 

  • Building relationships between you and the various members of your healthcare team

  • Treating symptoms

  • Managing complications of treatment and disease

  • Attending to the needs of you and your chosen family

You can get palliative care at home, in the hospital or in a care setting such as a nursing home. If you receive care at home, your palliative care team works with home care and hospice specialists. 

Comfort Care Unit

The Comfort Care Unit in our Madison hospital provides inpatient care to people who are near the end of life. We work hard to provide the best possible care to a patient and their family at the most difficult of times. We accept transfers from clinics, the emergency department and other hospital units.

The Comfort Care Unit provides:

  • Family support and resources

  • Open visiting hours

  • Options for patients to be transferred or admitted directly

  • Patient privacy

  • Quiet, soothing atmosphere

  • Team approach to symptom management

How we assist you, your family, caregivers and friends 

Your palliative care team helps you plan for your future. We document your health care wishes and help you address financial and legal concerns. 

We provide counseling and treatments for:

  • Anxiety

  • Depression

  • Fear of being a burden to family

  • Fear of dying

  • Loneliness

  • Loss of control

 We also treat your symptoms, including:

  • Fatigue

  • Loss of appetite

  • Nausea

  • Pain

  • Shortness of breath

Your care team also supports your caregivers, family and friends. We know it takes a lot of time and energy to provide care.

We assist families with:

  • Asking questions of your health care team to make sure you get the information you need

  • Dealing with feelings of anger, grief and guilt

  • Helping you with treatment decisions to ensure you get the right treatment for you

  • Giving medications appropriately

  • Identifying personal care needs

  • Talking about their feelings and concerns

  • Talking to their loved one, including knowing what to say and how to listen

  • Using resources for home care

Your care team alerts your family to health-related problems you may face in the future. We coordinate any services you and your family need.

Our team

Compassionate care for patients and families

When you come to UW Health and receive palliative care from our specialist team, we work with you and your doctors to determine which members of our team will be the most helpful for you. Your palliative care team may include:

  • Nurses

  • Chaplains

  • Palliative Care physicians

  • Psychologists

  • Pharmacists

  • Social workers

Our palliative care team works closely with many specialists to provide all the care and treatments you need. Your team may include services from:

  • Health psychology

  • Home health

  • Hospice

  • Integrative health services

  • Massage therapy

  • Pain management

  • Spiritual services

Our providers

Patient resources

Patient and family information and resources

The best way to learn about our palliative care program is to hear from our patients and caregivers.

Faye, whose mother used our palliative care program, talks about her experience.
Palliative care director Dr. Toby Campbell talks in detail about UW Health's approach to palliative care.

Learn more about UW Health palliative care from Dr. Toby Campbell:


Palliative care locations

We offer specialized palliative care at UW Health locations in Madison, Wis. and Rockford, Ill.