When a doctor gives you a diagnosis that significantly changes your life, it’s normal to feel like you are in a fog. You may have many questions and not know who to turn to for answers.
Palliative care is specialized medical care for people with an illness that severely affects their quality of life. It includes care for an individual’s spiritual, emotional, and physical struggles.
Anyone with a severe medical condition may choose palliative care, whether they are getting better or not.
Let’s take a closer look at when someone should be offered palliative care and why or why not you might choose this type of care for yourself or a loved one.
What is Palliative Care? What are the Benefits?
Palliative care is medical care focused on relieving the symptoms, pain, and stress of a serious illness. Palliative care aims to improve the quality of life for the patient and their family.
You can choose palliative care at any stage of an illness alongside other treatments.
A team of doctors, nurses, and other specialists work together with the patient’s regular doctor to provide comprehensive care.
Palliative care has many benefits, including:
- Relief from pain and other symptoms
- Improved communication between the patient and their healthcare team
- Better coordination of all aspects of the patient’s care
When Should Someone Be Offered Palliative Care?
Palliative care can be helpful at any stage of a severe illness, whether the goal is cure, stabilization, or comfort. A medical team may offer palliative care along with curative treatments like chemotherapy or radiation.
You or your loved one may benefit from palliative care if you have been diagnosed with an illness, such as:
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Parkinson’s disease
- Breast Cancer or other cancers
- Bone Marrow Transplant
- Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)
- Colon Cancer
- Congestive Heart Failure
- Eosinophil Associated Disease (EAD)
- Head and Neck Cancer
- Huntington’s Disease
- Kidney Disease
- Leukemia and Lymphoma
- Liver disease
- Lung Cancer
- Multiple Myeloma
- Multiple Sclerosis
- Ovarian Cancer
- Pancreatic Cancer
- Parkinson’s Disease
- Prostate Cancer
- Pulmonary Fibrosis
- Sickle Cell Anemia
- Other severe conditions (1)
Palliative care may also be appropriate if you are awaiting a transplant or dealing with the side effects of treatment.
Living with Serious Illness: Why Choose Palliative Care?
There are many reasons why someone might choose to receive palliative care. Some people elect to receive palliative care because they want to focus on quality rather than quantity of life.
Others may choose palliative care because they can no longer tolerate the side effects of curative treatments.
Some people hesitate to choose palliative care because they think it means giving up hope. However, you can choose palliative care while still undergoing curative treatment or medical treatments for serious illnesses.
Palliative Care Vs. Hospice Care
Palliative care and hospice care are not the same. Hospice care is only for patients who have chosen to forego curative treatment and focus on comfort measures in their final months.
You may enter hospice care with terminal illnesses where a doctor believes your specific prognosis causes your life expectancy to be less than six months.
Hospice is end-of-life care for a terminal illness. However, it is also a type of palliative care.
Palliative care can be essential to your healthcare journey, whether seeking a cure, stabilization, symptom management, or comfort. It can help you manage symptoms and improve your quality of life.
What to Expect at a Palliative Care Consult
Sometimes, after multiple hospitalizations and daily living with pain and other life-limiting symptoms, you and your family may decide you need care geared toward comfort rather than only finding a cure.
When you decide to start palliative care, you’ll generally attend a palliative care consult in a hospital setting and learn about the spiritual, psychological, and medical services they offer.
A specially trained team generally will begin treatment by:
- Discussing your treatment options
- Talking with family members and family caregivers
- Learning about how you experience your chronic illness in your daily life
- Working with pain management tools or prescribing medications
- Talking about the type of support needed as your condition progresses
- Offering spiritual support for your religious beliefs
- Considering respite care for family members if needed
Palliative care can provide support if you suffer from a chronic and life-limiting condition where you need symptom relief to function.
How Can You Find Palliative Care Teams?
You can find a palliative care team through hospitals, cancer centers, and other healthcare facilities. Many insurance plans will cover the cost of palliative care, so check with your provider.
Palliative care can be an essential part of your journey when living with a severe illness, providing relief from the symptoms of a chronic condition and improving communication between you and your healthcare team.
A long stint with a palliative care team sometimes ends with going into hospice care. When you’ve received the diagnosis of a terminal illness, you and your family may also start thinking more about end-of-life plans.
We Can Help
At Renaissance Funeral Home and Crematory, we help you and your family prepare your end-of-life plans so that the family faces less confusion and stress later. We can provide you with resources and support to make the best decisions for you and your loved ones.
Celebrations of life reflect the seasons of your life. Working with your family and us to plan everything helps everyone involved to understand your wishes. When the time comes for your loved ones to say their goodbyes, the only work left to do will be to grieve their loss.