There is a misconception that receiving palliative care means that someone is dying. This could not be further from the truth. In fact, palliative care’s focus is on helping patients better manage their illness so that they can reengage meaningfully with life.
Living with a chronic illness can have a large impact on overall quality of life. Not feeling well and juggling multiple doctors, appointments and medications can quickly overwhelm even someone with relatively mild symptoms. Palliative care can step in and help relieve that burden.
Unlike hospice, palliative care is not end-of-life care but medical care and psychosocial support that helps patients live their best with a chronic illness. Patient receiving palliative services can still receive ongoing curative treatments; palliative care is an add-on to those treatments.
Through an interdisciplinary team, palliative care helps patients manage their symptoms, assists with medical decisions, provides emotional support, and coordinates care among the patient’s physicians. Regular care meetings are held with patients and their loved ones to develop patient-directed goals and to change care tactics if needed.
Palliative care can begin at any stage of the disease and does not depend on prognosis or mean that someone is dying. From feeling overwhelmed with a new diagnosis to reaching a difficult point in an already progressed illness, palliative care can step in and create a plan based on patient and caregivers wants and needs to help maintain or increase quality of life.
A physician may make a referral for palliative care or interested patients and family members may contact a palliative care provider themselves to begin care.
Palliative care teams, which usually include registered nurses, aides, and social workers, work with patients and their families to develop care plans that are centered on patient and family goals. For example, if a patient has a condition that affects mobility, but still wants to get outside each day, palliative care can put in the care plan the best way to make that happen – maybe the family works with a home care aide, or a ramp is needed outside the home. A patient who really enjoyed art can be provided with adaptive equipment or art therapy.
Clinically, palliative care staff also help with symptom management, working with patients to find the right balance of medications that makes the patient feel the best. If there are difficult medical decision to make, palliative care teams can walk through the pros and cons with the patient and family. Palliative care can also make referrals for other services, such as physical therapy and home care.
Palliative Care can make a difference in the lives of people dealing with almost any chronic disease. Some of the more common diagnoses are:
Palliative care can help those living with many different and varying stages of chronic illnesses and does not mean the patient is dying. If quality of life is being affected, palliative care should seriously be considered.
Living with a chronic illness can be difficult. Palliative care makes sure that patients can continue to embrace life in a fulfilling, meaningful way.
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