3 Critical Things to Know When Transitioning to Palliative Care
The goal of palliative care is to relieve suffering by treating injuries, illness, symptoms or side effects to help people feel more comfortable. It extends to mental and emotional problems too, as one's quality of life can still be impacted without physical illness.
So, if your elderly loved one is transitioning to palliative care, know that his or her comfort is focal because palliative care is restorative on many levels. And while it may be a stressful time for both you and your loved one, in many cases, palliative care can improve the situation.
Here are three critical things to know when transitioning to palliative care:
1. Palliative Care is NOT Hospice Care
Palliative care will begin at diagnosis and be facilitated along with treatment. It’s part of a plan to treat a chronic injury or illness by focusing on alleviating as much discomfort as possible. Comfort is the goal, but there's also the potential for recovery in some cases. Palliative care is rejuvenating in nature.
Hospice care is typically for people given six months or less to live. While hospice care can still assist with daily activities as palliative care, hospice is not focused on recovery. It aims to provide a high quality of life for your loved one, but it's temporary, and unfortunately there's little to no expectation that your loved one recovers.
Palliative care aims to treat an illness or injury, to restore or maintain someone's quality of life with the expectation that a patient's health will improve.
2. Palliative Care is Restorative on Many Levels
Palliative care is delivered in many different forms. It can be medical, provided by a doctor, nurse, skilled therapists and other medical professionals.
But your elderly loved one may have more needs beyond medicinal. He or she still needs daily companionship, someone to keep them company, a friend to speak with throughout the day. Isolation in the elderly can have adverse effects.
Though your loved one will receive care from a medical professional under palliative care, it may not adequately substitute for the interpersonal care and compassion provided by a certified palliative caregiver. A certified professional caregiver is trained in the philosophy of care that is supportive and soothing – a more holistic approach to care.
So, if possible, make plans that grant your loved one both medical palliative care and a palliative caregiver to supplement it.
3. Palliative Care is Normally Covered by Medicare, Medicaid
If your senior loved one is transitioning to palliative care, the good news is that most private insurers, as well as Medicaid and Medicare, will cover all or some of the cost of care. They’ll typically cover visits from doctors, social workers and nurse practitioners, along with:
- Skilled therapy services
- Physical therapy (PT), occupational therapy (OT) or speech-language pathology (SLP)
- Home health aides
- Provide medical services
- Medical equipment or supplies
- Short-term inpatient care (relief for caregivers)
- Your loved one can receive respite care in a Medicare-approved hospital or skilled nursing facility (SNF) for five days at a time.
- Prescription drugs
- Nutrition and dietary counseling
- Religious counseling
If your loved one has Medicare Part A coverage, he or she may be eligible for palliative care in your community. If he or she carries Medicare Part B, it may cover some services and supplies to treat disease. Medicaid could cover some palliative care treatments and medications, including doctor visits.
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