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When to Start Palliative Care





When to Start Palliative Care

When to Start Palliative Care

Wednesday July 7, 2021

For many patients living with chronic illness, palliative care provides invaluable medical and social support. But palliative care is often the health care world’s best kept secret – many confuse it with hospice and may end up forgoing a service that can help greatly relieve the mental and physical effects of a serious disease.

The Center to Advance Palliative Care defines palliative care as “specialized medical care for people living with a serious illness. This type of care is focused on providing relief from the symptoms and stress of the illness. The goal is to improve quality of life for both the patient and the family.” While receiving palliative care services, patients can continue to receive curative treatment for their disease and services are in no way connected to the patient’s prognosis.

Signs it may be time to start palliative care

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The sooner palliative care services are employed, the better patient outcomes and satisfaction tend to be. If you or a loved one have been recently diagnosed with an illness that impacts the quality of everyday life, you can discuss palliative care services with your doctor. These signs may also indicate you or your loved one may benefit from palliative care:

  • There is a decline in physical function and additional assistance is needed at home.
  • Your illness has caused hospitalization two or more times within a six month time period.
  • Your overall quality of life is negatively impacted by your chronic illness.
  • There has been a diagnosis of progressive cancer and you are currently pursing curative treatments.
  • There has been a diagnosis of progressive dementia.
  • Physical and/or emotional symptoms are uncontrolled. This includes uncontrolled pain.
  • You need assistance making health care decisions.
  • There is concern over a caretaker’s exhaustion, spiritual or psychological distress.

How to begin palliative care

To start palliative care, the patient’s physician needs to create an order for the service. At Abramson Senior Care’s Lila H. Levin Palliative Care Program, families may contact us directly and we will work with their physician to obtain the necessary paperwork to begin care.

Once the order is received, an initial consult with a nurse practitioner will take place and from there a care plan will be developed. Care plans are centered around the needs and goals of both patients and caregivers, so all plans are highly-personalized. Care plan objectives are reviewed routinely with patients and caregivers and will be updated with appropriate services as needed.

How does palliative care work?

Palliative care provides a team of nurse practitioners, social workers, and chaplaincy staff so that patients and caregivers receive well-rounded holistic care. The team provides a number of services including:

  • Coordination of care with all of the patient’s physicians, include recommending and help implementing other support services as needed.
  • Support in making complex medical decisions.
  • Managing the patient’s symptoms whether they be physical such as pain, shortness of breath, nausea or emotional such as depression and anxiety.
  • Time for intensive family meetings to review and revise care goals as needed and to provide psycho-social support for caregivers and family members.

Palliative care’s focus is on helping patients live as normal a life as possible, this includes making sure that patients can still partake in favorite activities and hobbies. The palliative care team can help find ways to adapt as needed so that patients can still find fulfillment from the things they enjoy.

Who can benefit from palliative care services?

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All patients living with a disease that affects their everyday quality of life, and their family members and caregivers can benefit from palliative care services. Palliative care can make a difference in the following diagnoses, but is in no way limited to:

  • Cancer
  • Dementia/Alzheimer’s Disease
  • Heart disease
  • Kidney or liver failure
  • Lung disease
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Neurological conditions

Living with a serious illness can have a major impact on everyday functioning. Oftentimes medical care is focused on treating the disease, leaving many patients and caregivers to deal with the side effects on their own. Palliative care fills an important gap in care and can greatly improve overall quality of life.

If you think palliative care services are right for you or have more questions about when to start palliative care, please call Abramson Senior Care’s Lila H. Levin Palliative Care Program at 215.371.3550. Someone is available to talk 24 hours a day, seven days a week.