What Is Palliative Care?

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If a loved one has recently been diagnosed with a serious, chronic disease and you are starting to search for care options, you’ve probably come across the term “palliative care.” Often, the first question people ask themselves is “does palliative care mean a person is dying?” For many years, people have considered hospice and palliative care to be synonymous. Actually, palliative care is different from hospice and is appropriate for any person at any stage of a serious illness.

What exactly is palliative care? Palliative care provides an extra layer of support and care for patients diagnosed with a serious, long-term or life-threatening illness, from the time of diagnosis throughout the course of treatment. This type of care enhances the patient’s quality of life by anticipating, preventing, and managing suffering and is delivered through an interdisciplinary team approach to address patient needs. The team typically includes a physician, nurse, social worker, pharmacist, chaplain, and others as needed. Palliative care is appropriate at any stage of a serious illness, although it’s ideal to start early after a diagnosis. This type of care treats pain, depression, anxiety, shortness of breath, fatigue, nausea, loss of appetite, sleeping difficulties and any other symptoms that may be causing distress to a patient.  Palliative care does not mean you have to discontinue curative or corrective treatments.

A palliative care team ensures patients understand all treatment options and choices. They discuss a patient’s personal goals and help match those goals to treatment options. They also communicate and coordinate with all doctors so that everyone is on the same page. In short, they support patients and their families every step of the way.

What Does Palliative Care Do?

Here’s a look at a few of the other benefits palliative care offers for both patients and families:

  • Provides relief from pain and other challenging symptoms
  • Enhances the quality of the patient’s life during the course of illness
  • Offers a support system to help patients live as actively as possible
  • Offers access to home based medical advice (often available 24/7) resulting in fewer 911 calls and reduced medical costs
  • Provides a better sense of security for families and caregivers and relieves some of their stress

Patients receiving palliative care often report less depression, better quality of life, higher satisfaction with their care, less visits to an emergency room and fewer days in the hospital.  To learn more about palliative care and how Assisting Hands can work in cooperation with a palliative care provider, contact us and let’s discuss your questions.