Palliative Care: What It Is and What You Need to Know
Palliative care is the comprehensive treatment of the symptoms, pain and stress associated with serious illnesses. The goal of palliative care is to provide patient relief and quality of life support for both the patient and the family. Individuals suffering from serious illnesses can receive palliative care while still undergoing treatment for their illness.
Palliative care assists individuals coping with a variety of serious and chronic illnesses. Those with the following illnesses are ideal candidates for palliative care:
- Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)
- Congestive Heart Failure (CHF)
- Kidney Failure
- Liver Failure
- Lung Disease
- Neurological Diseases such as Parkinson’s, ALS or Alzheimer’s
Those receiving palliative care services can expect to receive focused treatment for a wide variety of symptoms. Common symptoms receiving attention from palliative care specialists include shortness of breath, pain, fatigue, nausea, loss of appetite, depression, anxiety, and inability to sleep. Palliative care helps patients gain strength and improve the body’s ability to tolerate medications.
When working with a palliative care team, you can expect to have many health care providers on your side. A typical core team of palliative care specialists will include a doctor, nurse and social worker. Others who may be included on your palliative care team include nutritionists, massage therapists, pharmacists, chaplains, and home health care providers.
Working together, your palliative care team will help to manage your pain and other symptoms, navigate the often confusing health care system, provide guidance when making decisions about your healthcare choices, and provide emotional support throughout your journey. “Palliative care helps you to live your life more comfortably. When serious illness hinders your quality of life, palliative care can help you to regain your footing. We are proud to assist families across the country with their palliative care needs,” says Larry Meigs, President and CEO of Visiting Angels.
It’s important to note that palliative care is different from hospice care. You can take advantage of palliative care at any time during your illness. Palliative care services run in conjunction with your curative treatments and have as their main goal to provide comfort and to improve quality of life. “Palliative care is not end of life care,” explains Meigs. “Palliative care can be provided in conjunction with hospice care, but can also be provided to someone suffering from a serious, but not life threatening illness.”
If you believe you or a loved one are a candidate for palliative care, ask your doctor. Your doctor can refer you to a palliative care team. You won’t have to give up your primary physician if you accept palliative care services. Your palliative care team will work in conjunction with your doctor to add an additional layer of care to that which you are already receiving.
You can also learn more about palliative care by visiting the Center to Advance Palliative Care (CAPC) website.